Colorado GOP is laying the groundwork to challenge the state’s open primary law

Primary Day Voting Ballot Drop Off Denver
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Denver Elections Division’s drive through ballot-drop-off station on Bannock Street on Primary Election Day June 30, 2020.

The Colorado GOP is taking its first step towards closing the Republican primary.

In a letter sent to the Federal Election Commission last week, the Colorado Republican State Central Committee and its new chairman Dave Williams asked for “an advisory opinion” on whether the party can “establish a legal fund to challenge the constitutionality” of Colorado’s open primary election law.

“The Colorado Republican Committee wishes to explore a lawsuit against the State of Colorado, which would challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 108,” stated the letter, written on behalf of the party by attorneys with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. The legal fund would defray the costs of legal action.

In 2016, Colorado voters approved Proposition 108, which allowed unaffiliated voters, now the state’s largest bloc, to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary. The law does have a provision allowing a party to opt out of the open primary system and instead pick its candidates through a caucus process, but 75 percent of the members of the state central committee must support the move.

An effort two years ago to close the party’s 2022 primary failed to win enough support from the central committee.

In 2022, individual Republicans tried to challenge the constitutionality of the law, but the case was dismissed because the court said they did not have standing, only the party would.

According to the letter, the committee chairman, Williams, would establish the fund and appoint a governing board with “final authority” over spending the money. “The Fund plans to accept unlimited amounts from individuals, political committees, corporations, and labor organizations,” the letter states, and would only be used for the lawsuit.

The move is not surprising. Williams talked about closing the GOP primary as he campaigned for the state party chair job. 

“We must work to close the primaries so that only Republicans choose our Republican nominees,” he said. “We cannot afford to let Democrats become unaffiliated so that they then can meddle in our primaries, like they did with (Rep.) Lauren Boebert. We must defend and protect our caucus assembly.”

Williams was referring to a grassroots campaign where some Democrats dropped their party affiliation to vote in the CO-3 Republican primary. It proved unsuccessful, as Boebert easily won the primary.