Bipartisan Bill Seeks To Bring Back Primaries

Photo: Colorado Primary Bill conference
State Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, announced a bill Thursday to bring back presidential primary to Colorado with other legislators.

Colorado legislators Thursday rolled out a measure that could bring back a state presidential primary, one in which all registered voters would be able to participate.

The bill is a response to frustration over a caucus system that has disenchanted many voters from all political stripes.

A bipartisan group of politicos touted the bill at a Capitol press conference.

“Regardless of party affiliation, Coloradans are demanding more inclusion in the presidential primary,” said Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, a bill sponsor. “And we stand before you today to tell them, ‘We’re listening.’”

The bill seeks to create a presidential primary in Colorado beginning in 2020. It would largely resemble how elections are currently structured: Registered voters will receive ballots in the mail 60 days before the primary – a date that will be determined later.

If a voter is a registered Democrat or Republican, that voter would receive a ballot to vote in the their party's primary.

Unaffiliated voters would also be able to participate. But they would have to choose a party preference in order to vote in the primary. That means they would have to declare which party they plan to vote for prior to casting a ballot, then go back to an unaffiliated status after the election.

Colorado’s same-day voter registration law would allow any voter to register to vote and cast their ballot on the day of the primary. Voters would be able to mail in their ballot, cast it at a designated drop-off spot or vote in person at a polling center.

Legislators acknowledged they don’t know how they’re going to pay for the primary – which is estimated to cost $5-7 million. There will be no funding behind the bill if it passes this year. So that will be up to a future legislative session.

The bill was not received warmly by a group that is pushing for a ballot measure that would create an open primary – one where all voters could vote without having to declare a party preference.

Curtis Hubbard, campaign manager for a group calling itself Let Colorado Vote, said the bill does not go far enough. He says the bill would reduce unaffiliated voters to “second-class citizens” because they’d have to request ballots that are automatically being sent to voters who are registered with a party.

“Why should the state’s one million independent voters be required to take steps not required of other voters? Why should someone who views themselves as an independent be forced to join – even temporarily – a political party in order to participate in elections paid for by all taxpayers?” Hubbard said.

Colorado held a presidential primary from 1992 to 2000. In 2003, the state moved toward caucuses – which are paid for by political parties – as a cost-saving measure.

Democrats complained of long lines at their March 1 caucuses, with voters being turned away at some precincts. Colorado Republican leaders canceled their presidential straw poll last year after the national party changed its rules to require that delegates be bound to the candidate who wins the caucus vote.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won all of the state’s 34 delegates at district meetings and at the Republican state convention earlier this month – in spite of the party not holding a presidential straw poll on caucus night.

Donald Trump, who still leads the GOP delegate race, has blasted the state GOP’s process of awarding delegates to the national convention; Trump supporters added their voices to is frustration last week at a Denver rally.