Here is a special endorsement; a two-for-one deal involving both Amendments 107 AND 108.
Both amendments deal with how the political parties deal with choosing their nominees for offices; 107 deals with the presidential primary while 108 would open the primaries for all non-presidential elections.
The impetus for this ballot measure stems from Colorado’s presidential nominating contest that was held in March. The political parties have control over how they choose to allocate delegates to the county, state, and eventually national conventions.
The Democrats had a caucus (which I participated in) and at caucus we chose who we supported for president. I supported Clinton, but Sanders won the caucus. There were some reports of locations being unable to hold the number of people attending as well as long lines. I can testify to that going into my caucus location at a nearby high school there was a long line, but we were done as quick as possible given the number of people that attended.
Meanwhile, the Republicans did not hold a presidential preference poll thus did not allocate their delegates at caucus. They chose to allocate their delegates at their congressional district conventions and eventually at the state convention which were held much later in the nominating process as it was looking more likely that Donald Trump was going to be their nominee. Colorado Republicans through their process chose delegates aligned with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and it was part of the Never Trump movement; an effort that was a Hail Mary to either block Trump from receiving a majority of the delegates or triggering certain provisions in the Republican Party’s rules to force a contested convention.
The presidential nominating contests this election cycle certainly exposed several flaws in how the major parties choose their nominee through the allocation of delegates. For the Democrats it was the use of delegates – allocated proportionally by voters in either a primary election or caucus – and superdelegates who were free to support a candidate at any time prior to the national convention. This caused a bit of consternation among Sanders supporters due to that before the start of the Iowa Caucus, Clinton had as much as 360 superdelegates in her pocket.
Some Republicans wished they had the Democrats’ system of delegate allocation because it likely would have blocked Trump from being their nominee. Besides having superdelegates that might have seen the potential danger of Trump as their nominee and provide a gatekeeper of sorts from that happening, Republicans also had a system of where some states awarded on proportional, some had certain thresholds candidates had to meet to claim certain percentages of delegates, and like the instance of Florida, Ohio, Arizona, and others were winner-take-all regardless of the winning candidate’s margin of victory or whether the winner received a majority of votes.
And with both major parties it was HOW the election was conducted. Some states such as Iowa, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, and Hawaii conducted their process by caucus while others such as Texas, New York, California, Florida, and Virginia used a primary. Kentucky Democrats held a primary while Kentucky Republicans went with a caucus in order to accommodate Senator Rand Paul’s
pursuit for the nomination.
Then there are the issues concerning voter registration and who can participate. In Colorado, you had to have been registered with the party for 60 days prior to participating in caucus as well as be a resident and registered to vote for 30 days propr. Meanwhile in Texas, you have to register to vote 30 days prior to an election and to participate in a primary election you ask for the ballot at the poling location.
They also stamp your voter registration card too. I kinda missed that. I liked being a technically card carrying Texas Democrat.
Most of these are due to state laws that are in place and this became a subject of controversy when New York unaffiliated voters who wanted to vote for Sanders suddenly could not because the deadline to declare a party affiliation had passed long before the Sanders campaign gained any serious momentum.
According to the most recent voter registration statistics provided by the Colorado Secretary of State, a little more than 1 million Colorado voters are unaffiliated with any political party; the largest pool in the state. The next two largest pools are Democrats at 998 thousand and Republicans short of 993 thousand.
Colorado is the very definition of swing state for this very reason.
The Colorado legislature tried to address this issue during the last session with a bill that would move the state from a caucus to a primary as well as address the issue of allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary.
The reason it did not arrive to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk for his signature was because 1) it happened late in the session as sine die was approaching, 2) the bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee along party lines 4-3, and 3) there were rumors that state Republican Party Chairman Steve House played a role in pressuring members of that committee to kill the bill.
I agree that there needs to be serious reform of how the parties chooses its candidates for various offices, and I plan to offer some suggestions in a series of posts sometime after the election. For now, let’s look at the suggestions provided by Amendments 107 and 108.
107 offers the move from a caucus to a primary as well as allowing unaffiliated voters to participate.
As shown in other states, primary elections resulted in better turnout that the caucuses in part due to being conducted as an election with an early vote period followed by an election day. A strong argument against the caucus is that they severely disenfranchise certain voters due to timing of the caucus that conflicted with work and school schedules, child care needs, and other unforeseen appointments or events.
The critique of this proposed amendment is that it would move Colorado’s presidential primary delegate allocation to a winner-take-all.
Winner-take-all delegate allocation might have hastened the end of the primary but it certainly would have lessened one candidate’s delegates influence on the platform and other committee assignments at convention.
108, like a provision in 107, would open the non-presidential primaries for all unaffiliated voters.
The proposal under 108 would send unaffiliated voters ballots for both party primaries. This could have a consequence of an unaffiliated voter returning both party primary ballots filled out thus invalidating one or both of their choices.
Then there is the risk of inflating a party’s primary vote totals thus giving it a false sense of dominance heading into a general election. You may have a surge of unaffiliated voters voting in a primary election due to it being more competitive than the opposing party’s primary, or the primary election is the only election for that seat because the opposite party failed to field a candidate and those voters want a say in the election instead of those affiliated voters.
Again to restate my earlier point, I agree that the nominating process in this country needs some serious reform. The state legislature should try again to solve this problem in the upcoming session. 2017 appears to be the best opportunity given that the memories of issues surrounding the primaries are still relatively fresh in everyone’s mind. Passing a bill and implementing it in time for 2018 would give the state a trial period to determine what corrective actions are needed prior to the presidential nominating contests in 2020.
Definitely Colorado should move to a primary election for the presidential nominating but a winner-take-all delegate system would present a new set of problems.
The winner gets all of the delegates regardless if the vote is close or is a blowout. Other candidates might make the strategic move of conceding Colorado if it is not viable to campaign in the state thus reducing our influence in the nomination process.
Same issue if there are multiple candidates. If Candidate A gets 36% of the vote, Candidate B receives 34%, and Candidate C gets the remaining 30%, and there are 100 delegates to be allocated, what are the final delegate tallies in a winner-take-all scenario?
The answer is Candidate A receives 100 delegates while B and C get nothing despite their best efforts.
As for allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in any primary election, I am a registered Democrat in Colorado, and I take pride in that. My stance is that if you want a say in how the parties nominate their candidates for office: check the box for a party on your voter registration.
While moving to a primary is the right step for Colorado, awarding the delegates via winner-take-all as well as broadly allowing unaffiliated voters to participate is why I recommend NO votes on Amendments 107 & 108.