Will Colorado Be The Next State To Adopt Nonpartisan Elections?

Will Colorado Be The Next State To Adopt Nonpartisan Elections?

Created: 08 January, 2014
Last update: 15 October, 2022
Most of the country ‘s political scene is looking toward the new year and the upcoming

ivn-falchuk.v5midterm elections in November wondering how a new congressional makeup might change the current political deadlock or reinvigorate the last two years of President Obama’s term in office.

Some Coloradans, however, have a different focus in 2014.

In the Centennial State, there is a movement underway to put a new initiative on the 2014 ballot aimed at fundamentally changing the state's electoral system.

Currently, the state has a semi-closed primary system. The primaries are reserved for party members, but unaffiliated voters can participate if they change their party affiliation before election day.

Many citizens of the state believe that this system has disenfranchised many voters who do not want to affiliate with one party. Since 2008, as politics has grown more polarized, an increasing number of Americans are identifying as independent which means voters are either choosing not to vote, or are forced to associate with a party just to participate.

A bill to amend this process was brought before the state legislature in 2011, but lawmakers voted down the measure. The bill would have allowed voters to participate in the primary elections without giving up their independent status.

Now, activists are working on a new initiative to completely overhaul elections with a new type of nonpartisan election system. The question asks:

“Should Colorado adopt a two state election system in which every registered voter can vote in each stage for any candidate on the ballot in their voting district?”

This measure would allow for all voters to participate in each stage of the elections process. Oftentimes, particularly in locations that lean heavily toward one party, the elections are ostensibly decided in the primary stages.

Leaders of the Colorado initiative believe it will help boost voter participation in the state, where currently a third of unaffiliated voters do not participate.

While California and Washington state have

adopted nonpartisan top-two systems, the new proposal in Colorado is a little different.

In the California System, Ryan Ross, director of the Coalition for a New Colorado Election System, notes that only the top two candidates advance from the first round to the second. In about 88 percent of cases this still means one Republican and one Democrat. The CO proposal would allow the top four candidates to advance, as well as anyone with 3 percent of the vote in the first round. Ross notes that this would allow for multiple Democrats, multiple Republicans, maybe some independents, and maybe some third party candidates to give voters more choices.



Ross first got involved in this movement about a year ago as a result of a long-standing frustration with the lack of choices on the November ballot, which he believes cheats voters out of adequate choices to represent them. This disaffection, he believes, has only grown across the country as Congress looks worse in their political stalemate.

The coalition therefore is looking to institute these reforms in Colorado, but have higher aspirations where, as Ross points out, their work is only the “beginning of a nationwide movement to democratize democracy and bring real voter choice to the ballot in states across the country.”

Progressive writer John Nichols listed five reforms to make politics matter again in 2014, most of which centered around improving elections nationwide. Colorado is clearly trying to make this suggestion a reality in their state.

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About the Author

Debbie Sharnak

Debbie Sharnak is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus on Latin America and international relations. Her work examines the origins and evolution of human rights. She was a 2014 Fulbright Scholar in Uruguay.