Don't governmentize our political parties

Disregard the sob story about voters who don't bother to affiliate with a political party being "disenfranchised" in the candidate nominating process, whether for president or any other partisan office, federal and state.

That's not the real issue in this year's Colorado Propositions 107 and 108, forcing the Republican and Democratic parties to let outsiders help pick their nominees.  

The issue is whether voluntary nongovernmental associations, competing for different visions of how we the people should control our elected officials and institutions, are to be "governmentized" step by step until all the control operates in the other direction -- "them" giving orders and "us" just clicking our heels.

If we want our political parties to remain truly free, self-determined in their efforts to steer the ship of state, then we'd better not let the "stateroom" power brokers (even by way of plebiscite) start steering -- some would say "rigging" -- the way that parties have to put forward candidates.

This is why I voted NO on 107 and 108.  I hope you will do the same.  Below is a very detailed, dispassionate analysis of both measures, compiled by a senior policy analyst with long legislative experience, a friend of mine whom we'll call Publius.  

Publics doesn't draw a conclusion, but I will:

Vote NO on 107 and 108. Don't governmentize our free political parties.


=============  107 AND 108 EXAMINED: BY PUBLIUS  ==================


Pro & Con on Proposition 107: Open Primaries for Presidential Nominations

Proposition 107 would establish a presidential primary in Colorado beginning with the presidential election year 2020 and allow unaffiliated voters to participate.  It is a statutory amendment to state law, and thus would be subject to amendment by the general assembly.

Arguments in support of Proposition 107

§  Colorado’s current caucus system is open only to members of each political party. This discriminates against unaffiliated voters, giving them no say in the selection of presidential candidates. This effectively disenfranchises the largest category of voters, the unaffiliated. 

§  Citizen participation in party caucuses is very low and not representative of Colorado voters as a whole.  A presidential primary would allow all Colorado voters to participate in selecting presidential candidates.  

§  In both the 2015 and 2016 sessions of the state legislature, party insiders killed proposed legislation to reestablish Colorado’s presidential primary.  This ballot measure is the only way to overcome the establishment’s opposition to giving ordinary citizens a voice in the process of selecting presidential candidates.

Arguments against Proposition 107 

§  This proposal is too broad and has many features not essential to establishing a presidential primary.  The legislature has plenty of time to write and pass a good bill before 2020 once we reach a consensus on the best way to do it.  That consensus is lacking at present.

§  The additional, separate March primary will cost Colorado taxpayers over $5 million and there will be substantial costs to local taxpayers.  This is unfair to local taxpayers.

§  Unaffiliated voters can already participate in any party caucus simply by changing their registration 60 days in advance of the caucus meeting.  Every unaffiliated voter receives a notice informing him or her of that option.

§  Both the Republican Party and Democrat Party have the option to establish a binding “straw poll” for the 2020 presidential election.  Each party should decide that for itself, and the need for a binding poll may change from one presidential election cycle to the next.

§  This proposal allows the Governor to set the date for the presidential primary without any consultation with either the Secretary of State or state party officials.  That is a bad idea because such unilateral authority is subject to partisan abuse.

§  Another bad feature of Proposition 107 is mandating a “winner-take-all” formula for awarding delegates to the national convention instead of a proportional allocation.  A candidate who gets 45% of the primary vote should get 45% of the delegates, not zero.  

§  Adopting a winner-take-all allocation by statute is inherently unfair and undemocratic.

§  The poorly drawn language on “binding” of convention delegates will bind Colorado’s delegates not only for the first ballot but for all subsequent ballots as well.  That is a really dumb idea because it could disenfranchise the entire Colorado delegation if the candidate who won Colorado’s primary in March is no longer a viable candidate in July or August.

§  The mandated “combined ballot” for unaffiliated voters likely will result in widespread confusion and to tens of thousands of spoiled ballots, which could go uncounted.

§  The state’s previous presidential primary system was abandoned in 2003 because of the taxpayer cost after participation in the 2000 primary declined to only 17% of eligible voters, and the 1996 turnout was only 22%.  Let’s learn from history and get it right.  

Pro & Con on Proposition 108: Open Primaries for other Races

Proposition 108 will allow over 1.3 million unaffiliated registered voters to vote in Colorado’s June state primary beginning in 2018, including federal, state and local elected offices. Like Proposition 107, it is statutory and thus subject to amendment by the general assembly.

 Arguments in favor of Proposition 108

§  Unaffiliated voters make up more than one-third of all registered voters in the state; they deserve to have a voice in selecting political party candidates for the general election.  This proposal ends their disenfranchisement. 

§  Unaffiliated voters are taxpayers, and our primaries are funded by taxpayer dollars.  So, they    should not be denied an equal voice in primary elections. 

§  Allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections may result in candidates who better represent all Coloradans, not just a political party's most active or most fervent members.  Opening the primary election to unaffiliated voters hopefully will result in candidates who are more responsive to a broader range of interests.

Arguments against Proposition 108

§  Political parties are private membership organizations which have the right to select their own candidates without influence from people who choose not to affiliate with the party.  The argument that unaffiliated voters have been "disenfranchised" is ridiculous because they themselves have chosen to NOT join a political party.  No one denied them that option.

§  Allowing unaffiliated voters a voice in Democratic and Republican primaries is an open invitation to cross-party voting that can sabotage the selection of the party’s strongest candidate.  Why? Because It will permit Democrats and Republicans to change registration to Unaffiliated and vote in the other party's primary right up to Election Day, an option not available under current law.

§  Colorado law already allows unaffiliated voters who wish to vote in a primary election to easily change their affiliation at any point during the election, up to and including on Election Day—an option not available to the 65% of registered voters who belong to a political party.

§  Proposition 108 creates a combined ballot for unaffiliated voters (listing all Democrat and Republican candidates) that will likely result in about 7 percent of unaffiliated voter ballots not being counted.  This can change election results, and may result in more contested elections and costly litigation.   

§  Colorado's county clerks believe that producing and processing a separate combined ballot for unaffiliated voters will create administrative and financial burdens for counties, especially smaller or rural counties, adding substantial taxpayer costs to the conduct of those elections.

§  As a justification for expanding primary elections to unaffiliated voters, Proposition 108 claims "turnout in primary elections is declining."  That is not true.  Average turnout in primary elections over the past five primary elections has been HIGHER than the average turnout over the previous five elections, and the June 2016 primary turnout set a 21st century record.  Moreover, Colorado’s voter registration and election turnout are among the highest in the country.  

§  Immigrants, tourists and under-18 teenagers are taxpayers but are not eligible Colorado voters, so being a taxpayer is not by itself an entitlement to vote in any election.