Colorado election changes brings primary voting to unaffiliated voters

Audrey Weiss

In 2016, Colorado voters passed a ballot measure granting unaffiliated voters the opportunity to participate in the primaries.  In this year’s state election, these changes will come into effect both on a local and statewide front.

Unaffiliated voters have been excluded from the primaries in past elections, Larimer County clerk and recorder Angela Myers said. 

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With recent changes to the Colorado election process, however, independent voters will receive both the Democrat and Republican ballots. The purpose of this change is to give the opportunity for unaffiliated voters to have a say in the outcome of the parties, as they have not been allowed that right in the past, said Kristin Stephens, Fort Collins city councilmember and chair of the election subcommittee.

Previously, unaffiliated voters would not receive a ballot unless they requested one, Myers said.

“In the past, the parties alone would be the ones to select their candidates,” Myers said. “Now, unaffiliated voters will have the opportunity to contribute their vote.”

With these recent changes, unaffiliated voters will receive both ballots and will have the opportunity to select the candidate they please.

Myers stressed that while unaffiliated voters will receive both ballots, they will only be permitted to vote for one of the parties and will send back only one ballot.

“This may be a little confusing because unaffiliated voters will get both ballots,” Stephens said. 

In the past, the parties alone would be the ones to select their candidates. Now, unaffiliated voters will have the opportunity to contribute their vote.” Angela Myers, County Clerk and Recorder

Myers said if voters return both the Democrat and Republican ballots with votes in each, then neither will be counted towards the election. For this reason, voters must select only one party to put their vote towards and mail back only that ballot.

In addition, when unaffiliated voters do place their vote and select some party, their vote will be recorded. Myers said state law requires this step.

These votes will be recorded in the voter registration database, but will not assign a party to the unaffiliated voter and are merely for data information purposes. On a local front, the Fort Collins election process—which does not include primaries or parties as it is a nonpartisan election—will move towards greater candidate transparency, according to Stephens.

“People want to know where the money comes from and where the money is going,” Stephens said.

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Fort Collins City Councilmember Ross Cunniff reiterated this point, saying he thinks this change will allow the public to better see how money is being spent and where funding is coming from.

“Since I’ve been on Council I have been advocating for continuous improvement in our election process,” Cunniff said.

Cunniff stressed transparency during his term, including the City Council’s move to email transparency.

Stephens said in previous elections, signatures have been checked for confirmation, but have not been scanned. Now, ballots will include a required signature that will be checked with a software program to assure identities and prevent voter fraud. Cunniff said he thinks this will benefit transparency and simplicity.

“We have wanted to move this way for a while, but were not able to share data with the county for doing this verification,” Cunniff said. “The recent law changes will allow the country to share their signature data with us, enabling us to do signature verification on our mail ballots. “

Voter registration is available online and in person in the state of Colorado for residents with a Department of Revenue issued Colorado State ID or license. Myers emphasized the importance of voting. 

“I encourage all folks who are eligible to vote to do so,” Myers said.

Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @audkward