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Election committee discusses 2 issues opening primaries to unaffiliated voters before they even pass

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Sep 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-13 20:34:56-04

DENVER -- Ahead of the November election, the Bipartisan Election Advisory Committee met on Tuesday to discuss the potential for presidential primaries.

Two ballot issues that voters will decide on in November deal with unaffiliated voters and primaries.

Proposition 107 would bring back presidential primaries instead of the caucus system, and it would allow unaffiliated voters to participate without having to pick a party. The ballot unaffiliated voters would receive would have candidates for both parties, but they would be instructed to only vote for one party or the ballot would not be counted.

Proposition 108 would also allow unaffiliated voters to receive combined ballots and vote for one party. It would also allow the political parties to opt out of having a presidential primary and instead have a caucus similar to what we have now.

"We went to the caucus in Blackhawk and we were there for three hours and we kept waiting to vote and found out that there was not going to be a vote. We were new, so we didn't know about all the shenanigans that happened with the Republican Party," said Republican voter Donna Okray. "I could have been FaceTimeing with my grandkids."

Okray made her comments to the Bipartisan Election Advisory Committee on Tuesday afternoon, showing her support for a presidential primary open to all voters.

"I do believe that my right to vote in a primary election -- to choose the candidate that I would like to see go forward in the Presidential election. To use a common word right now, it 'trumps' the cost that it takes to make this primary election happen," said Okray. "My bottom line is, this grandma wants to vote."

The board discussed multiple issues that could exist if either or both of the measures pass. Those issues include the multi-million dollar cost of having a presidential primary, how unaffiliated voters would be able to vote without picking a party and how spoiled ballots could be cured instead of thrown out altogether. Because the ballot issues are statutory, the state legislature can pass a bill to address issues of concern.

"We want to keep the intent of the voters and what they are trying to accomplish, but at the same time, I think there's going to be a scalpel approach that's going to be needed to remedy some of these flaws," said State Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver.

The board discussed options for unaffiliated voter ballots. One option would be to send unaffiliated voters one ballot with all parties listed, but requiring the voter to only pick candidates from one party. Another option would include voters letting their county clerk know which party's ballot they want to receive for that primary.

County Clerks have not taken a position on the issues, but the difference of opinion was clear in the meeting.

"What we are concerned about is the way that this bill is written, the way the ballot is designed, that it would significantly increase the amount of voter errors that we see," said Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane. "It seems to me the best way to do that is to combine both primaries on the same ballot. I think that will help turnout actually, if people are looking for one ballot and then they'll go and vote all the way up and down that ballot."

"I would fully support something that someone could go back and forth on either party, all the way down the ticket," said Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson.

Colorado Voter Registration statistics as of September 1 (active voters):

  • Unaffiliated: 1,044,207
  • Republican: 976,141
  • Democrat: 973,460

Total Active Voters (all parties): 3,042,575

Let Colorado Vote wants to open up primaries to allow the one million unaffiliated voters receive a ballot without having to temporarily select a party.

"Add it all up, five percent of active voters in Colorado had a say in the nomination contest for the Presidential election this year. Five percent. One in 20 Colorado voters," said Let Colorado Vote spokesman Curtis Hubbard.

Before the meeting ended, Hubbard asked the 15-person board how many were registered as unaffiliated voters; only one person raised their hand.

"Just to point out to you, unaffiliated voters are the largest group of voters," said Hubbard.

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