No Delegates: Both Buttigieg, Klobuchar Have Officially Withdrawn From Colorado’s Super Tuesday Primary

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Last minute voters at the Denver Elections Division headquarters on Bannock Street in Denver.

Updated March 3, 10:41 a.m.

The office of Colorado's Secretary of State office has confirmed that both the campaigns of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have filed their paperwork to withdraw from the primary. That means any Super Tuesday votes turned in before the candidates announced the suspensions of their campaigns won't be counted.

It also means that state Democratic Party officials won't have to worry about handing out any delegates.

The Colorado Democratic primary isn’t winner-take-all. Instead, candidates must reach the magic threshold of 15 percent, either statewide or in individual congressional districts, to receive delegates based on the proportion of votes they get. 

More than 500,000 Democratic ballots were already returned in Colorado before Buttigieg dropped out Sunday, and about 100,000 more were turned in before the news broke about Klobuchar midday Monday.

Before the withdrawal paperwork was filed, if those ballots had got either Buttigieg or Klobuchar above 15 percent in one of the state’s seven congressional districts, they would “still be allocated delegates at the congressional level,” said David Pourshoushtari, a spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party. So both would have gotten to keep those delegates even if they dropped out.

In Colorado, 44 of the 67 delegates are awarded by congressional district, the rest are based on statewide results. Pourshoushtari said only active campaigns can be awarded statewide delegates, meaning Klobuchar and Buttigieg are out of the running for those.

Still, congressional delegates are not bound at the Democratic National Convention, so when the process gets to Milwaukee in July, “those delegates are then free to be a delegate for someone else, whether it’s Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Bernie Sanders, or another candidate,” said Pourshoushtari.

Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar have endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Colorado voters who have already cast a ballot for a candidate who is no longer running for president are out of luck. The system doesn’t provide for a do-over.  

Democratic House Majority Leader Alec Garnett called the situation frustrating. He said several Buttigieg supporters reached out to him over the weekend to ask what they should do. 

“I do think it's a conversation starter about whether or not we need to make a statutory change to allow voters in the future an opportunity to make sure that their voice is heard all the way up to Election Day,” Garnett said. “This is the first time Colorado's doing a presidential primary and these are some of the issues that I don't think the legislature discussed.” 

But the Colorado County Clerks Association urged caution on any new approach.

“There are better options. Provisional ballots are not for voting twice,” said Pam Anderson, the head of the County Clerks Association. “Replacement ballots are available. Any ‘solution’ should be strongly examined for over-correcting to impact voter confusion, efficient access, tabulation and timely results.”

Some of that confusion was evident Monday, with conflicting information on social media about whether a person who’d just dropped off a ballot could quickly get ahead of it by going to a Polling Center and casting a new ballot for a candidate still in the running.

Colorado clerks count the first ballot to reach the processing center. But under state law, turning in two ballots is a crime, no matter the reason, as Dwight Shellman, the state’s elections liaison to county clerks tried to make clear on Twitter:

The only loophole is for voters who’ve already marked a ballot but have not returned it yet. In those cases, voters can draw a line through their original choice and mark a new one. Voters can also throw out their spoiled ballot and opt to vote in person at a vote center instead.

County clerks are bracing for a long election night, as the unpredictable Democratic field may have many voters waiting until the final minutes to return their ballots. Polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.