October 6, 2016
The Caucus system for determining local, state and national primary races was established first in 1910, then repealed by an act of the State Legislature in 1992. But after 10 years of a primary system, Colorado voters, by defeating Amendment 29, restored the Caucus system in 2002.
Proposition 107, introduced this year by a coalition of progressive interests, would establish a presidential primary in Colorado beginning with the presidential election year 2020. It is a statutory amendment to state law, and thus would be subject to amendment by the general assembly.
Why do folks want to hold a Presidential Primary in Colorado?
- Colorado’s current caucus system is open only to members of each political party. Unaffiliated voters feel this is discriminatory, giving them no say in the selection of presidential candidates.
- Citizen participation in party caucuses is very low because of the non-participation of the large unaffiliated voting bloc, and does not represent a good cross section of Colorado voters. A presidential primary would allow all Colorado voters to participate in selecting presidential candidates.
- In both the 2015 and 2016 sessions of the state legislature, party insiders killed proposed legislation to reestablish Colorado’s presidential primary. Proponents feel Proposition 107 is the only way to overcome the establishment’s opposition to giving ordinary citizens a voice in the process of selecting presidential candidates.
Why folks don’t like Proposition 107
- Proposition 107 is too broad and has many features not essential to establishing a presidential primary. The legislature has plenty of time to write and pass a good bill before 2020 once we reach a consensus on the best way to do it. There currently exists no consensus supporting a presidential primary.
- The additional, holding a separate March presidential primary will cost Colorado taxpayers over $5 million and there will be substantial costs to local taxpayers. This could strain already cash-strapped local governments.
- Unaffiliated voters already have the opportunity to participate in any party caucus simply by changing their voter affiliation 60 days in advance of the caucus meeting. Every unaffiliated voter receives a notice informing him or her of that option.
- Both the Republican Party and Democrat Party have the option to establish a binding “straw poll” for the 2020 presidential election. Each party should decide that for itself, and the need for a binding poll may change from one presidential election cycle to the next.
- Proposition 107 allows the Governor to set the date for the presidential primary without any consultation with either the Secretary of State or state party officials. That is a bad idea because such unilateral authority is subject to partisan abuse.
- Another bad feature of Proposition 107 is mandating a “winner-take-all” formula for awarding delegates to the national convention instead of a proportional allocation. A candidate who gets 45% of the primary vote should get 45% of the delegates, not zero. Adopting a winner-take-all allocation by statute is inherently unfair and undemocratic.
- The poorly drawn language on “binding” of convention delegates will bind Colorado’s delegates not only for the first ballot but for all subsequent ballots as well. That is a really dumb idea because it could disenfranchise the entire Colorado delegation if the candidate who won Colorado’s primary in March is no longer a viable candidate in July or August.
- The mandated “combined ballot” for unaffiliated voters likely will result in widespread confusion, voter fraud, and possibly tens of thousands of spoiled ballots, which could go uncounted.
- The state’s previous presidential primary system was abandoned in 2003 because of the taxpayer cost after participation in the 2000 primary declined to only 17% of eligible voters, and the 1996 turnout was only 22%. Let’s learn from history and get it right.
Proposition 107 has the right intention, to get more Colorado voters involved in the electoral process. But this ballot proposition was hastily crafted without sufficient thought given to voting patterns, and elections costs in Colorado. Vote NO on Proposition 107. It’s an unnecessary measure that will further muddy Colorado statues. Answers to the problems Proposition 107 purports to fix are already found in Colorado’s elections rules and processes.