Super Tuesday caucus chaos left many Coloradans begging their lawmakers to set up a presidential primary.
Two efforts to do so tanked this week, with the last bill standing killed by the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Tuesday.
House Bill 16-1454 would have allowed unaffiliated voters to join a party for just one day to participate in a presidential primary in Colorado.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said rushing through legislation with only two days to go in the 120-day session was unnecessary, and the public would be better served by a proposal that has more time for review and debate.
A second bill, Senate Bill 16-216, which would have set up a presidential primary that allowed only voters from the two major parties to participate, never made it out of the Senate Monday.
Both party chairs, Steve House of the Colorado GOP and Rick Palacio of the Colorado Democratic Party, backed the House bill. But GOP activists opposed it, claiming the bill would end the caucus system, which they favored keeping.
“We have time in the legislature to do something in the coming years,” said Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, who sponsored the House version. The next presidential election to which the measure would apply wouldn’t take place until 2020. But Guzman also said the process of rushing it through with bipartisan support only to have it killed by the State Affairs committee was upsetting.
Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Westminster, a Democrat who sits on the State Affairs committee, pointed out that he had sponsored a similar bill last year that died in the same committee. Had that bill passed, voters could have avoided being disenfranchised during the March 1 caucuses, he said.
What happened on March 1 was not right, according to Sen. Matt Jones, a Democrat from Louisville. “I like caucuses, but we’ve outgrown them” for the presidential race.
Jones said he favored the House version, and was hopeful there would have been an agreement on the measure.
Ulibarri said lawmakers have 245 days away from the Capitol to discuss the issue with constituents and figure out a solution for next year.
And on that point, there was bipartisan agreement, of sorts. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Sterling Republican who also sits on the committee, said the legislature rarely creates good public policy by rushing through proposals in the waning days of the session.
“It’s appropriate to have these conversations early on,” Sonnenberg said. “We have four years to get it right.”
Guzman accused Senate Republicans of failing the people of Colorado, and noted both major parties, the Secretary of State and the state’s County Clerk’s Association all supported the measure.
Photo credit: Futundbeidl, Creative Commons, Flickr.