Vote yes on 107, 108 - Open Primaries
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Posted by jesse shayne on October 06, 2016 at 4:44 PM

Vote yes on 107, 108

This editorial was published by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and represents the opinion of the editorial board

There are two closely related ballot initiatives that are good for the health of our democracy. One restores a presidential primary in Colorado (to be held in March) and allows unaffiliated voters to pick a presidential candidate. The other opens the June down-ballot primary to unaffiliated voters.

Giving unaffiliated voters access to primaries is important for two reasons. We have a lot of them in Colorado. There are more unaffiliated voters (36.6 percent) than registered Democrats (32 percent) or registered Republicans (31 percent).

And, since all voters pay for elections, it’s not fair to exclude more than 1 million Coloradans from primary elections. For many counties, including Mesa, primary elections are the elections that really matter.

Opponents to Propositions 107 and 108 argue that unaffiliated voters already have the option to participate in primaries by affiliating with either party before the election — and then are free to switch back to unaffiliated status. We feel that’s an unnecessary barrier to participation, especially for those who relish their identity as politically independent. If that option exists anyway, why not make it easier to give all voters a voice? Especially since primaries are financed by taxpayers.

Mixing in unaffiliated voters would temper extreme views and pandering to a narrow base, hopefully resulting in more moderate candidates open to compromise.

But some current politicians don’t want to change the status quo. The Legislative Council Committee has been criticized for amending Blue Book language to include a 7 percent spoilage rate based on data out of Washington state. But Let Colorado Vote, the group pushing for the propositions, says that figure — based on factors that won’t apply to Colorado’s system — is flawed. The actual number is closer to 0.51 percent, they argue.

A majority of states open their primaries to unaffiliated voters. Colorado would use mail ballots. Unaffiliated voters would have instructions to vote in one, but not both parties’ primaries.

The presidential primary would cost about $5 million every four years. That’s a reasonable cost to better engage voters.

Proposition 108 would allow the parties to opt out of conducting a primary and use an assembly or convention to choose nominees. If they go that route, at least taxpayers won’t be footing the bill for an exclusionary process.

The propositions are statutory changes. They don’t amend the Constitution, so lawmakers have the option to make changes to improve the new system if necessary.

These propositions have the endorsement of every living former governor of the state, Gov. Hickenlooper, former Republican state Sen. Josh Penry, Club 20 and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

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