October 17, 2016
Election Day in the US is just a few short weeks away and soon enough this nation will have a new President-elect. This Nov. voters in Colorado will also decide on Proposition 107, which will establish an open presidential primary for the State of Colorado if approved.
When Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is sworn-in in Jan. 2017 it will be the fruition of a nearly two-year process that began with announcements in the spring of 2015 and culminated this summer in their formal nominations as presidential candidates for the two major American political parties: Democrat and Republican.
To achieve the position of formal nominee both candidates worked their way through a complex and convoluted nomination process that involves independently created party-specific rules, such as super delegates in the case of the Democrats, and independent state statutes in many of the states or jurisdictions participating in the nominating process.
Regardless of who the eventual President is neither will have been the first choice of Colorado’s Republican or Democratic parties. Democrats in Colorado initially selected Senator Bernie Sanders in a March 2016 caucus. The State Republican Party did not hold either a primary or a caucus in 2016 but did select Senator Ted Cruz in District and State conventions held in April.
If the State of Colorado approves Prop 107 in Nov. two striking changes will occur to how we decide on presidential nominees. First, Colorado will determine future presidential nominees through a formal primary process, as opposed to party directed caucuses. Second, unaffiliated voters in Colorado will be able to participate in the process as Prop 107 would mandate the presidential primary process be open to unaffiliated voters as well as those with a party affiliation.
According to information from the voter information aid booklet the Colorado Blue Book under Prop 107, “each major political party will have a separate presidential primary ballot for use by voters affiliated with the party. Unaffiliated voters will receive a combined ballot that shows all candidates for each political party.”
Under the new system proposed by Prop 107 unaffiliated voters would be able to select from the entire contingent of candidates, from all parties, and would be allowed a single primary vote, and not a vote for a candidate within each party. If an unaffiliated voter selects more than one candidate for the presidential primary the ballot would not be counted.
The actual selection of a presidential nominee by a political party is achieved through state delegates that attend national conventions every four-years. Under Prop 107 the winner of each respective party’s presidential primary would receive all of Colorado’s state delegates at their national convention with the delegates legally bound to support the winner at the convention.
There are multiple arguments for and against the measure that can be found in the Colorado Blue Book. Proponents argue a presidential primary serves Colorado votes better than a caucus system, which, “is confusing and inaccessible to many voters. Caucuses can be crowded, held at inconvenient times, and conducted by inexperienced volunteers.” Under Prop 107 the primary process would be governed by county election officials and would give voters several weeks to vote as opposed to a single night of participation for a caucus.
Those who favor Prop 107 also contend all registered voters in Colorado, including those not affiliated with a specific party, should be able to participate in the presidential nomination process, citing the fact that one-third of Colorado’s registered voters are unaffiliated. Proponents of Prop 107 assert the measure will provide additional confidentiality for voters by utilizing the secret ballot process, as opposed to the current caucus process that requires public declarations of support for candidates, which proponents argue, “can discourage participation by many voters who do not wish to make their preference known.”
Those who oppose Prop 107 contend the measure’s proposed combined ballot system for unaffiliated voters, “will likely result in some unaffiliated voter ballots not being counted, could change the primary election winners, and would raise costs for taxpayers.” Additionally opponents of Prop 107 point out that any voters who select candidates from both parties for the primary will have their ballots disqualified. “This can change election results, and may result in contested elections and litigation,” states the “Arguments Against” section of the Colorado Blue Book.
Opponents of Prop 107 also contend the measure, “shifts costs to taxpayers, as the state and counties will be required to spend at least $5.0 million every four years to conduct a presidential primary election.” Under the existing caucus system political parties fund the cost of caucuses. The Arguments Against section also points out that unaffiliated voters who wish to participate in the state’s existing caucus system can do so by declaring a party affiliation ahead of time.
If Prop 107 is approved it will take away some of the power currently vested in the Democrat and Republican parties in the state. As such the Chairmen for the State Republican Party, Steve House, and State Democratic Party, Rick Palacio, are opposing Prop 107. Also on record as opposing Prop 107 are several other lesser known state political figures and politicians.
Supporters of Prop 107 include Governor John Hickenlooper, former Colorado Governors Bill Ritter and Bill Owens, the Metro Mayors Caucus, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and others.