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Colorado voters talk about partisanship

By Lisa Desjardins and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Tue July 24, 2012
iReporter Jesse Fraunfelder blogs about partisanship in American politics.
iReporter Jesse Fraunfelder blogs about partisanship in American politics.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • iReporter Jesse Fraunfelder angry with both parties for what he calls "political stunts"
  • Expert: U.S. House set records for the amount and intensity of partisan votes last year
  • Aurora, Colorado, is in Arapahoe County, voted 56% Obama, 43% McCain in 2008
  • Follow CNN Radio's Embed America trip on our map

Editor's note: Embed America is a partnership between CNN Radio and CNN iReport. This series tells the story of the 2012 U.S. presidential election through the people most critical to the campaigns: the voters. CNN Radio is traveling across the country to interview iReporters on election issues close to their hearts. These issues were named important by iReporters during phase 1 of the iReport Debate.

Aurora, Colorado (CNN) -- Jesse Fraunfelder, an unemployed husband and father, shakes his head when he thinks of the salaries going to members of Congress.

"If we worked 5% of the time and 80% of the time we said: 'We're either not going to vote, we're going to scream at each other or not do our job at all,' what would happen to us?" he asked. "Would we be fired? I think so."

iReporter Fraunfelder lives in Aurora, Colorado. CNN selected him for this story prior to the movie theater shooting.

Fraunfelder is incensed over the gridlock in Washington and blames partisan rancor for failure of Congress to compromise on issues ranging from jobs to the national debt. Disappointed and cynical as he is, however, Fraunfelder will still vote this fall.

Watch behind-the-scenes interview with Fraunfelder

"I care about my country. I vote," he said. "We need to make sure they hear us, especially now."

But drive three hours from Fraunfelder's house, into the Rocky Mountains, and Roxanne Pranger is not sure if she'll vote.

"I am so discouraged with Congress and how they can't get along," she told CNN Radio. "They used to sit and hash things out and that's how it should be."

Pranger, who lives in Steamboat Springs, just turned 60 last month and believes this is the most divided she has ever seen her government.

"I just feel like they're acting like kindergarteners," she said.

According to Congressional Quarterly's annual review of votes in Congress, 2011 set a record for both the number of partisan votes (votes where a majority of one party votes against the majority of another party) and the intensity of the partisanship (the frequency that members vote with their party) in the House of Representatives.

"Right now we're seeing an increase in polarization," said Vanderbilt political science professor John Geer. "At some point it will start to decrease."

Geer is more analytical than emotional about the tide of partisanship, noting that the U.S. government was designed to be contentious.

"I'm not looking for them to be members of the clergy," Geer told CNN Radio. "We have two parties for a reason."

But Geer also believes there is a danger when partisanship reaches this kind of extreme level. He gave an example of how divide, and the gridlock it caused, hurt the country in the past.

"There are injustices that have unfolded in this country, namely like civil rights, that took far, far too long for those to unfold ... which is a problem with the system," he said.

But can this change?

What's your take on partisanship? Share your view with CNN iReport.

"I don't know what can get us out of it," Geer admitted. But he ventured an idea.

"At some point enough people like Roxanne (Pranger) need to be angry enough that maybe they don't vote, or maybe they vote for a third party," Geer said.

For now, it is certainly possible Pranger will stay home on Election Day. She told CNN Radio that she likes President Obama, but is disheartened by negative ads on both sides, causing her to consider staying home on November 6.

Listen to Fraunfelder's original story on CNN iReport

Meanwhile, Fraunfelder said he is still considering how he'll cast his vote. The self-described independent voter insisted he will look at who is more likely to hold moderate views and, he hopes, be less partisan.

See all of the Embed America coverage here. And track the Embed team's progress on our map.

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