Unaffiliated voters getting a say in Colorado primaries? Two measures just made the ballot

Ally Aubry

In March, Colorado’s chaotic caucuses caused confusion for caucus-goers. Say that one 10 times fast.

Joking aside, the messy, party-run early nominating contests for president led to plenty of questions about whether Colorado should change the way voters here pick presidents. Should we have a primary? Should unaffiliated voters who can’t participate in the Democratic and Republican caucuses have a say?

Well, voters will have a say this November, since two measures that deal with the process just made the ballot.

From the Colorado Secretary of State’s office:

Initiative No. 98 allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections without having to declare being a member of a certain party, as is the current law. However, Republicans and Democrats could decide to forgo having a primary election and instead choose their general election nominees at the assembly or convention, providing that 75 percent of the party’s state central committee agrees.

Initiative No. 140 restores a presidential primary to be held before the end of March in presidential election years, and allows unaffiliated voters to participate without declaring to be a member of a political party.

“Both measures amend state law, rather than the state constitution,” reads a statement from the Secretary of State.

So far, that means there will be seven initiatives on the ballot for Colorado voters to decide on Nov. 8. That number could grow as the state continues to count signatures on other citizen measure’s submitted by petitioners.

In March, supporters of Bernie Sanders led to a record number of Democratic caucus goers in Colorado, which meant long lines and hundreds turned away.

On the Republican side, party leaders cancelled their presidential straw poll so their delegates could go to the national convention unbound. The move prompted the party’s eventual nominee for president, Donald Trump, to say Colorado ran a “rigged” election.

“Colorado voters value independence and want elections that encourage participation,” said Kent Thiry, the campaign chairman for the ballot measure effort, Let Colorado Vote, in a statement. “Only 5 percent of voters participated in the March caucuses, which is not a sign of a healthy democracy. Our initiatives will fix that and allow more than 1 million unaffiliated voters to participate in elections that they currently pay for, but thus far have been excluded from.”

Unaffiliated voters are the largest group of voters in the state with more than a million registered.

Also, no need to remember these initiative numbers. They will change after Sept. 9.

Photo by Ally Aubry from Creative Commons on Flickr.


  1. I’m an Independent, and I feel it’s wrong to be able to chose a Presidential candidate without being a member of that party. Require voters to go through the process of changing affiliation, at least temporarily.

    And who is going to pay for these primaries- the taxpayers.

  2. This is a welcomed change. Taxpayers already pay for party caucuses that discriminate and exclude independents. Independents pay tax money that fund closed elections for both parties is unfair and needs to change.

  3. We already have to pay for the caucuses, and there are three of those. A district, a county, and a state. It cost Denver county 25k just to rent the convention center for our county caucus. Meanwhile, every other county had them. It is naive to think that the caucus process is cheaper. in addition, because our primaries exclude the largest voting base in the United States, only 9% of Americans are responsible for selecting the two most disliked candidates in our Nations history. Im conflicted however, because caucus states seemed to maintain their voter integrity. Primaries are much easier to manipulate, as we saw with 13 states having unprecedented margins of error in the exit polls, in favor of HRC. I do hope one of the additional measures includes hand counted ballots.

  4. A. Appleseed and Dana — where do you get the idea that the state taxpayers are paying for caucuses?

    Primary elections were held in the 1990s and 2000 elections (I wasn’t in the state before that). As Wikipedia states, “Caucuses are regulated by Colorado law, but expenses for it are paid by the major political parties that use the system.”

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