Presidential Primary Forum discusses unaffiliated voters

Rachel Telljohn

The Colorado Elections Study Group met on campus Saturday, Sept. 24 to hold its fourth and final meeting to discuss two ballot propositions regarding Colorado’s presidential primary election.

The purpose of the four forums is to collect an aggregate of all information regarding the current primary system and the proposed primary system.

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“They have been very informative, and I can tell you we learn new things at each one of them,” Senator Jerry Sonneberg said.

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(left to right) Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, Senator Vicki Marble, Senator Kevin Lundberg, Senator Kevin Grantham on the panel for the Colorado Elections Study Group at the Lory Student Center on Sept. 24 (Rachel Telljohn Collegian)

Proposition 107 and 108 are the two proposed ballot propositions that would eliminate the current caucus system in Colorado in which voters can only vote for the party in which they are registered. Proposition 107 would utilize an open presidential primary instead. Proposition 108 would let those unaffiliated vote for a major political party, without declaring an affiliation to that party in the primary election.

Republican Senators Kevin Lundberg, Kevin Grantham, Jerry Sonnenberg and Vicki Marble served as the panel for the forum. Chairs from the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties were present across multiple Northern Colorado counties. The Office of the Secretary of State was also represented.

Less than ten members of the general public turned up for the forum. Senator Lundberg said there was much heavier participation at the other three hearings.

Cost of equipment for counting votes was one of many concerns brought up by Judd Choate, Director of Elections for the Office of Secretary of State. Choate said the equipment currently in place is not equipped to handle counting in the way suggested by the proposition.

“These technology hurtles are pretty significant,” Choate said.

Angela Myers, the Larimer County clerk and recorder, said those in the senate may not be aware of low voter turnout in the presidential primary. According to Myers, in 1992 Larimer County saw 25 percent voter turnout, under 15 percent in 1996 and below 7.5 percent in 2000.

Myers believes unaffiliated voters getting two ballots creates an element of confusion.

“It puts them in a uniquely challenging position when it comes to getting those ballots voted correctly,” Myers said.

There are over 75,000 registered unaffiliated voters in Larimer County, the largest population of registered voters.

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Marie Cochran, of the Libertarian Party of Colorado, was unsure that the proposed measures will solve any problems. She said political parties are privately funded and should be paid privately, but the tax payers should rightly pay for elections. Cochran believes the individual determines their own level of involvement in politics and should not feel disenfranchised.

Citizens are “only voters once [they] vote,” said Peg Cage, chair for the Boulder County Republican Party. Cage believes the presidential primaries are an inaccurate way of striving for political correctness.

“I’m here today to plead against primaries,” Cage said. The primaries represented another way of taking more power and giving it to the government, Cage said.

Caucuses are working in Gilpin County, said Tom Wingfield, chair of the Gilpin County Democratic Party.

“Basically, we’ve tried to get more folks involved,” Wingfield said. “We’ve actually gone to the expense in the Democractic Party to mail out postcards.”

Wingfield believes the caucus allows neighbors to discuss something which they otherwise might not.

Bob Morain, chair of the Larimer County Republican Party, is also in favor of the caucus system. He said it is too confusing and that voters feel disenfranchised. The solution to confusion, according to Morain, is a simple one – provide better notice and explain the process.

“I think that’s really a matter of choice,” Morain said.