Vote “yes” on Propositions 107 and 108 — give Colorado voters more choice - Open Primaries
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Posted by jesse shayne on October 06, 2016 at 5:15 PM

Vote “yes” on Propositions 107 and 108 — give Colorado voters more choice

This article was published by the Denver Post and represents the opinion of the editorial board

One of the easiest observations to make about recent election cycles is to note the system could use some new ideas. Party politics have grown so polarized that they’ve produced presidential nominees this year that most voters don’t even trust. And recent election cycles have shown us that far too many times the party faithful manage to offer up candidates most of us are unwilling to take seriously.

Coloradans see the disconnect all too well, but roughly 1 in 3 voters here are blocked from stopping the dysfunction.

Thankfully, a pair of measures before voters this year would help. Propositions 107 and 108 would return a proper presidential primary to Colorado and open it and the rest of the primary races to greater voter participation by allowing unaffiliated voters to take part. We believe the changes would usher in more engagement, encourage broader and more thoughtful debate and ultimately provide better candidates to entrust with public office. We urge voters to say “yes” to Propositions 107 and 108.

A big reason the system has grown so cantankerous is that it excludes more independent-minded voters from participation until ballots go out in the mail three weeks before Election Day. That’s because the major parties exclude those who register as “unaffiliated” from the nominating process.

It’s a significant omission. Presently, more than 1 million of those registered to vote in Colorado signed up by picking the unaffiliated category. Unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats, who have nearly 999,000 registered voters in the state, and Republicans, who number almost 993,000. They’re what put the “swing” in our swing-state status.

Because both Propositions 107 and 108 would open the nominating process to unaffiliated voters, the result would likely be — especially among the state-level races — that more reasonable, centrist candidates rise above the hardliner hacks we’ve grown so tired of.

The parties are still able to conduct important business and narrow the primary field. And Proposition 108 would allow the parties to opt out of conducting a primary and instead rely on partisan assembly or convention processes to pick their nominees.

Critics say adding a presidential primary and opening all primaries would cost taxpayers more, and that’s true. State and local costs would increase in election years by a few million dollars. Critics also argue that a new system could be confusing. Because unaffiliated voters would get a combined ballot, but would be required to pick from only one party, critics argue that some voters might cross-vote and their ballots would not be counted.

It’s bound to happen, but we think most voters will be able to figure it out. Should significant problems arise, solutions would be available. Because the measures are statutory and not enshrined in the state constitution, lawmakers could more easily tweak the rules to better the new system.

As for the cost, the resulting crop of better candidates would be well worth the money. Because that’s really the bottom line: Propositions 107 and 108 seek to improve the democratic process to better enable the republic to do its job.

The partisans have had it their way. It’s time to give the rest of us a bit more say.

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