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Coalition Launches Campaign to Establish Nonpartisan Elections in CO

by Debbie Sharnak, published

Colorado made history in 2012 when state voters approved Amendment 64, which made it legal for people over 21 to buy small amounts of recreational marijuana. The law went into effect on January 1, 2014, making Colorado the first state to tax legal recreational marijuana. Much of the nation has been following Colorado’s venture, and recent reports note that the state is expected to bring in $98 million. This number is about 40 percent higher than original expectations.

While most of America has focused on Colorado’s experiment with marijuana, a small group of dedicated activists have been working on another initiative to put before Colorado voters. Ryan Ross, director of the Coalition for a New Colorado Election System, has been working with supporters to overhaul the state’s primary system.

Currently, like in many other states, Colorado conducts semi-closed primary elections which only allow voters registered with one of the major parties to participate. This system excludes voters and candidates who wish to maintain their identity as independents or as members of a third party from participating in this critical stage in the election process.



Ross' coalition proposes three fundamental reforms to change the election system to allow all voters full and meaningful participation in the voting process.

  • First, it would abolish tax-funded party primaries. Instead, the entire candidate field would be on the same primary ballot.
  • Second, any party could put two candidates on the ballot. Candidates would also be eligible to run if they received enough signatures.
  • Third, with everyone able to vote for whoever they wanted, the top four candidates from any party, as well as anyone with 3 percent of the vote, would then advance to the general election.

Tuesday, April 29, the Coalition for a New Colorado Election System will launch its official campaign, “Change.Politics.Now.,” at a press conference in Denver and explain how the coalition’s three initiatives represent “the most aggressive attempts anywhere in the country to devise a new approach to elections.”

In an interview with IVN, Ross explained that voters in Colorado have shown a “willingness to go ‘outside the box,’” reflecting their “independent thinking, and a recognition that difficult problems sometimes require trail-blazing solutions.”

The coalition notes that the current electoral system was instituted over a century ago. In the ensuing 100 years, it explains in a press release, politics have changed considerably, which necessitate a new system for the state to “elect more problem-solving candidates, all but end negative campaigning, and wipe silly partisan gamesmanship off the political map

The lofty goals will head to voters in November. Earlier this month, the Colorado regulators for petition-circulation approved the coalition’s request to put their initiatives on the ballot.

Over the next six months, the coalition will work hard to publicize their issues among the electorate, with the hopes that Colorado will continue to lead the country in game-changing political referendums. The state leaders of both major parties in Colorado have received information about the proposed changes to election law from Ross, but neither party has responded yet.

Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

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