In Colorado, only about 5% of its registered voters had a say in the presidential nominating process this year. Regardless of how you feel about the presumptive nominees, it’s hard to imagine a less inclusive system, and it prompts one to wonder, “How did Colorado get here?”
According to the advocacy group Let Colorado Vote, it boils down to ineffective caucuses that are not serving the state’s population.
This year, just 6% of registered Republicans showed up for caucuses after their party opted out of a presidential preference poll. Democratic caucuses attracted less than 14% of active Democrats in the state. And the state's 1.3 million independent voters were banned from participating in caucuses at all. In total, just 180,000 Coloradans – out of nearly 3 million registered voters -- participated in the March caucuses.
It wasn’t always this way. In 2003, lawmakers did away with a presidential primary in Colorado in order to save $2.2 million. Let Colorado Vote estimates restoring a presidential primary could generate ten times that amount in economic activity.
The group is planning to ask Colorado voters in November to bring a presidential primary back to Colorado and to open all primary elections to independent voters.
Restoring a semi-open presidential primary election, which requires Democrats and Republicans to vote in their primaries and allows independent voters to vote in one party’s primary, could be the answer to increasing participation in the presidential nomination process in Colorado.
It would give taxpaying independent voters an opportunity to participate in the democratic process. Colorado also has a history of inclusiveness, creating election policy choices to encourage participation like mail-in ballots and registering voters at the DMV.
Right now, Colorado is just one of 20 states that bar unaffiliated voters from the presidential nominating process.
Caucuses don’t have to go away. Parties can use them as a vehicle to identify candidates for other offices, to advance delegates to their assemblies and to sign up precinct committee workers. But many believe, after this election, something needs to change and restoring the presidential primary in Colorado and opening primaries to the state’s growing population of independent voters could be the answer.