Editorial: Return to primary, open it to all - Open Primaries
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Posted by Jesse Shayne on October 06, 2016 at 4:56 PM

Editorial: Return to primary, open it to all

This editorial was published by the Coloradoan and represents the opinion of the editorial board

Voting in local, regional and national elections is one of the greatest and most important rights our country affords.

But making your voice heard is a voluntary action.

Colorado has done a few things right – such as issuing mail-in ballots to all of its registered voters – in the name of encouraging engagement.

However, there are barriers to participation. Two questions on the Nov. 8 ballot seek to involve more people in the process.

Proposition 107 would replace our current caucus system with a presidential primary election before the end of March. Proposition 108 would open primaries to any voter, regardless of affiliation.

The last presidential primary in Colorado was in 2000. It was eliminated by lawmakers in 2003 as a cost-saving measure.

Proposition 107 comes with a price tag. It’s estimated at roughly $5 million every four years. That is no small sum, especially as Colorado, which mandates a balanced budget, anticipates cutting $226 million from its $27 billion budget in 2017.

But here are a few other numbers to consider: per the Secretary of State, there are more than 3.6 million registered voters in Colorado. Just 180,000 participated in the 2016 caucuses in March.

Here in Fort Collins, more folks wanted to participate. Caucus precinct leaders hung from trees and shouted from fields at local schools, having left designated classrooms because of occupancy limits.

Across the state, an uncounted number of would-be voters abandoned their efforts, including a reported 200 at a single location in Boulder. Would-be voters left frustrated by the process, deciding it was not worth their time or effort to participate.

Proposition 107 provides a solution. It would allow people to cast a mail-in primary vote. It would not require them to appear at a specific precinct at a set time, taking off of work or making accommodations for family care.

Parties would still select candidates for primaries. Candidates either petition onto the ballot or would be placed on via caucus and assembly.

Proposition 108 goes hand in hand with 107. Today, only registered party members can participate in a party’s primary. Unaffiliated voters can affiliate with a party on primary day and vote for that party.

There are nearly 100,000 unaffiliated voters in Larimer County (they make up 38 percent of registered voters, with Democrats at 28 percent and Republicans at 32 percent).

Yes, voters can affiliate one day and unaffiliate the next. However, some people simply don’t want to affiliate. Opening primary elections to Colorado’s unaffiliated voters provides more and easier access to the process.

As we look across the country and the state, younger voters are redefining traditional party lines. Fifty percent of Larimer voters under age 26 are registered as independent.

Asking someone who considers himself or herself as independent to declare for a day is a potential barrier to participation.

The editorial board believes the cost of a primary system — at roughly $5 million every four years — is a principal concern. However, the current caucus system excludes significant blocks of would-be voters.

And participation in the electoral process is well worth our support.


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