KNOW YOUR VOTE: 7 things to know about Propositions 107 & 108 -- primaries and independents

DENVER – In the weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 General Election, Denver7 will be profiling most of the state ballot measures and initiatives. In this edition, we take a look at Amendment 107 and Amendment 108, which would restore presidential primaries in Colorado and open up non-presidential primaries to independent voters, respectively.

Here are 7 things you need to know about Propositions 107 and 108:

1. WHAT DOES PROPOSITION 107 DO?

If approved, Proposition 107 would re-establish presidential primary elections in Colorado and open them up to unaffiliated voters.

If 107 is approved, Colorado’s governor would set a date for the primaries, and each primary would utilize a mail-in ballot system for voting, as is currently used in the General Election. The primaries would be held before the third Tuesday in March.

Approximately 34 percent of Colorado voters are unaffiliated and are currently barred from participating in the state’s “closed primary” system.

Unaffiliated voters, which make up the largest percentage of Colorado’s electorate, are required to identify with the Republican or Democratic party in order to vote in a “closed primary” state such as Colorado.

If Proposition 107 is approved, people registered with major parties will receive primary ballots with candidates in their affiliated parties. Unaffiliated voters would receive ballots with every candidate for each major party, but could only select one person for president. Voting for more than one candidate would invalidate a ballot.

The winner of a primary would receive all of that party’s delegates to the respective national convention, and those votes would be bound to that candidate.

Parties could still hold caucuses for internal party affairs, but not for a presidential candidate’s nomination.

The primaries would be paid for by the state and each county, and would be administered by county election officials. Under the current system, political parties pay for caucuses.

2. WHAT DOES PROPOSITION 108 DO?

Proposition 108 differs from Proposition 107 in that it has nothing to do with presidential primaries, but rather would allow unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot in non-presidential primaries.

If approved, 108 would allow unaffiliated voters to c=vote in a single party’s primary, and would also allow parties to opt out of holding primaries altogether and to instead use an assembly or convention to nominate candidates.

In line with Colorado’s rules not allowing unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in presidential caucuses (or primaries, if the state were to have them), they are also not allowed to vote in the June primary that determines state, local and some other federal nominees.

Though unaffiliated voters are allowed to affiliate with parties during the primaries and withdraw their affiliations before the November General Election, Proposition 108 would make that process unnecessary.

If approved, 108 would allow those voters to receive ballots with every major-party candidate, for whom they could vote one person for each seat.

Counties would be allowed to determine a combined ballot is not feasible and would mail each unaffiliated voter one ballot for each party, though they could only vote on a single party’s ballot if that was the case.

A second prong to 108 would allow political parties to opt out of holding a primary and to instead nominate their favored candidates in assemblies or elections that is only open to voters affiliated with that party. The state committee for each party would have to approve the opt-out by a three-quarters majority vote.

Proposition 108 would also allow parties not considered “major”, i.e. the Republican and Democratic parties, to be included on the combined ballot for unaffiliated voters.

3. HISTORY OF CAUCUSES AND PRIMARIES IN COLORADO

Colorado last used primaries to determine its candidates for president in 2000, and used them in 1996 and 1992 as well. It still uses a June primary for non-presidential federal, state and local offices.

Colorado Democrats used a caucus in 2016, 2012, 2008 and 2004, and Republicans caucused in 2008 and 2012. Republicans held district conventions this year.

A bill was introduced earlier this year seeking to make changes similar to what 107 and 108 would do.

4. SUPPORT FOR PROPOSITION 107

The most widespread argument in favor of 107 is it will bring Colorado back to a primary system and away from caucuses, which are prone to confusion and logistical hardships since voters have to be present to vote for hours on a single day – something many voters cannot afford to do on a weekday.

A primary could be conducted over several weeks with a mail-in ballot system in place, and would give a more well-rounded voice to voters.

But it also favored by unaffiliated voters, which make up the largest percentage of Colorado’s electorate, who want to be able to pick a presidential nominee for a certain party they may vote for in the General Election.

The proposition would also give more secrecy to a person’s vote, since caucuses force participants to publicly state the candidate they are in favor of.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and former governors Bill Ritter, Bill Owens and Kick Lamm all support the measure, as does former Sen. Mark Udall and former Sen. Josh Penry, among others.

Let Colorado Vote, the political action committee that has acted as the primary support engine for Propositions 107 and 108 proponents, has raised and spent around $3.5 million this year, compared to only around $9,000 raised by anti-107 PACs.

Most of Colorado’s major newspapers have endorsed the measure, including the Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Boulder Daily Camera, among others.

5. OPPOSITION TO PROPOSITION 107

The chief argument against 107 comes over concerns that the combined ballot may be confusing for independent voters and could lead to the nullification of their ballot should they not fill it out right.

Taxpayers would also be on the hook for the change, which would cost the state around $3 million between 2018 and 2020, ahead of the next presidential election.

Counties would have to pay a total of around $5.3 million for a presidential primary, although the state would reimburse about half the cost.

Two PACs, Citizens for Integrity Issue Committee and Save the Caucus, have combined raised about $9,000 to oppose the measure, though combined have spent only around $400.

Both the Longmont Times-Call and Loveland Reporter-Herald opposed the measure because of the costs associated with the changes.

6. SUPPORT FOR PROPOSITION 108

Similar to the support for 107, proponents of 108 argue the measure would give more of a voice to unaffiliated voters and increases voter participation in what could be key races. Some argue this gives the state a more well-rounded representation in local, state and non-presidential federal offices.

It has also similarly received support from Hickenlooper, Ritter, Owens, Lamm and Udall, among others.

Let Colorado Vote’s money has been used to support both Proposition 107 and 108. Many of the editorial boards for newspapers endorsed 107 and 108 simultaneously.

7. OPPOSITION TO PROPOSITION 108

The same concerns voiced in opposition to 107 also hold true for 108 in that the largest concerns stem from concerns over voters’ abilities to fill their ballots out correctly.

The state voting guide points to Washington, where 7 percent of combined ballots are disqualified, which could lead to contested elections or lawsuits.

Also brought up often in opposition to the measure is the fact unaffiliated voters can switch their affiliation any day up to Election Day.

Local government spending would increase by $750,000 every two years should parties not opt out of the primary system.

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Stay posted to Denver7 for more upcoming reports on state and local ballot initiatives Coloradans will be voting on Nov. 8. Previous initiatives covered can be found below:

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