The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports on debate over House Bill 16-1454, legislation that would restore the state’s presidential primary elections–a timely push after both Republicans and Democrats found their own things to hate about the caucus process in 2016:
While the legislation has bipartisan sponsorship, it passed the Democratic-controlled committee on a party-line vote.
Sponsors of the legislation introduced the measure after chaotic March 1 caucuses, where many voters expressed frustration. Reports of long lines and confusion swept the state…
Most everyone agrees that the long lines, low participation rates, and general confusion in the party-operated caucus process stymie the voting public’s access to the presidential nomination process. With that agreed upon, restoring a presidential primary comes down to a much stickier question–who would be able to participate? Presently voters must declare their party affiliation well in advance of the caucus.
Under the proposed new system, there would be at least some opportunity for crossover voting shenanigans–but proponents say it beats the alternative.
The legislation would stop short of creating a full, open primary, but it would allow unaffiliated voters to temporarily choose a party preference in order to participate.
Thirty days after the election, the preference would default back to unaffiliated. There would, however, be a public record of what preference that voter chose for the election.
One thing that makes it more difficult to “protect” the partisan primary from malicious “Operation Chaos” style meddling by the other party is Colorado’s progressive voter registration law passed in 2013–which allows eligible voters to register and vote on Election Day. If you want same-day registration, some other provision must be made for primary elections unless you want to throw the doors wide open and have a fully “open” primary. The “temporary affiliation” proposal is an admittedly awkward workaround, but would at least try to uphold these competing ideals of access vs. party participation.
We recognize that one’s preference for or against an open primary in this presidential election year may well be biased by circumstances that might help or hurt a favored candidate. But insofar as political parties continue to exist, the logical argument still resolves in favor of parties retaining control over their nominating process–including preferring primary voters be bonafide party members.
And as the Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports, if you don’t like this idea, there are much worse ideas in the wings:
A group called Let Colorado Vote is proposing a ballot initiative to allow unaffiliated voters to vote in every race and receive ballots from major parties.
“I think the proposed system is infinitely better than the system that has gone through my office during the ballot-title setting that would involve sending everyone multiple ballots,” said Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
There’s no question that mailing both primary ballots to every voter would be a much more sinister blow to the power of political parties in Colorado, and an open invitation to crossover voting games beyond Rush Limbaugh’s wildest dreams. Even if you rankle at the idea of weakening party membership requirements to vote in a presidential primary, the compromise represented in HB16-1454 may well be your best shot at retaining some measure of control in today’s fluid political landscape.
Because whether you’re a fan of the status quo or not, it’s going to change. Whatever the solution is, the train wreck of this year’s caucuses for both parties is not to be repeated.