In November of last year, voters in Colorado passed two election reform measures aimed at their June elections. Proposition 107 established presidential primaries in Colorado (previously the state had conducted caucuses), and the primaries will be conducted as open primaries, where voters do not have to be affiliated with a party to vote in any of the parties’ primaries.
Proposition 107 set up a mail-in only primary in which the sole election on the ballot is the presidential race. Party members will receive a ballot with just their own party’s candidates, whereas unaffiliated voters will receive a ballot with candidates from all parties on it, from which they are allowed to select a candidate from one political party only.
Additionally, Proposition 108 sets up open primaries as well, but for non-presidential races, such as those for governor and state representatives. The same rule that allows selection of candidates from only one party applies to 108 as well.Voters approved these two measures by way of initiative last year. But now, one of the candidates running for chairman of the Colorado Republican Party wants to reverse course. George Athanasopoulos, who ran unsuccessfully for the US House of Representatives in District 7, recently
penned an article in which he outlined why he was against the implementation of Proposition 108 as part of his quest for the chairmanship.
While there may be a legitimate legal case against Colorado’s open primaries, Mr. Athanasopoulos doesn’t offer it. First, he wants a bill to delay implementation of Proposition 108 because he says it was passed “under false pretenses.” The problem with this argument is that he doesn’t even articulate any pretenses that might be false.
Second, the chairman hopeful cites to both Tashjian v. Republican Party and California Democratic Party v. Jones as evidence that Colorado’s open primaries are unconstitutional.
In Tashijan, the court held both that closed primaries violated the parties’ First Amendment rights, and that permitting unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections did not violate the constitution. Both of those holdings are in direct opposition to Athanasopoulos’ claims that the propositions’ open primaries are unconstitutional.
He also cites to Democratic Party v Jones. In that case, the State of California had open blanket primaries that allowed voters to vote in one party’s primary from some offices and another party’s primary for others. The Court held that this violated the political parties' private right of association.By taking the arguments from the
Democratic Party case, Mr. Athanasopoulos is trying to extend a narrow holding on blanket primaries to all open primaries. However, as stated above, propositions 107 and 108 both permit unaffiliated voters to vote for candidates from only one party, a system that is common and currently in use for presidential contests in several states across the country.
As a practical matter, Athanasopoulos also makes an absurd argument that open primaries lead to candidates with the most money having a “nearly insurmountable advantage.” Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, had far less campaign money and institutional support than Secretary Clinton, but still defeated Clinton in a number of open primary states.
Finally, Mr. Athanasopoulos says that, “We should never concede to a system that favors only the wealthiest or most politically connected.” That quote is the perfect example of a political talking point that is totally unrelated to the issue being argued. It’s called a red herring.
If there was any relevance to this empty rhetoric, George would have to somehow show that politically unaffiliated voters are wealthier and more politically connected. Logic implies that Mr. Athanasopoulos is either deliberately misleading people over the issue(s) at stake, or he is just talking about things that he doesn’t understand. And if he was truly concerned about the less politically connected, it’s curious that he would want to keep the unaffiliated from having any voice in the primary process.
Either way, sounds like a partisan politician to me.
Unaffiliated voters now comprise the largest voting bloc in Colorado, and the voters made the decision last November to let those independent voices have a say at the all-important primary stage.
Athanasopoulos has made no valid claim as to why they should remain silenced.
What he does argue, however, is that the State of Colorado and its taxpayers should fund and administer an election that serves the exclusive and private benefit of only those voters who join a major political party.
That doesn’t sound very Republican to me. Or very American.