Only a relative handful of Coloradans participated in caucuses this year. The process is complicated and expensive. Many participants complained about it and passed caucus resolutions demanding change.
Propositions 107 and 108 are the answer. They would modernize our system, initiating a more democratic process for choosing presidential and down-ballot candidates.
Prop 107 would restore Colorado's presidential primary, making our state important during primary season. It would take an insider's game, in which small numbers of partisans choose electors to the national conventions, and allow all Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters to participate in choosing presidential nominees.
Prop 108 would open all primaries to the state's 1.3 million unaffiliated voters.
As it stands, party caucuses elect delegates to the respective county and congressional district assemblies and each party's state convention. At the county, state and congressional gatherings, delegates nominate nonpresidential candidates for the state's primary.
At each party's state convention, delegates choose electors who go to the national conventions to help select each party's presidential nominee. Primary voters have no say in how delegates vote at the national conventions. This year, Colorado's Republican delegates held out for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who had suspended his campaign long before the national convention began. The delegates had pledged to support Cruz during caucuses and at the state convention, without regard for the greater public will.
Nothing in the measure would eliminate the caucuses, assemblies and conventions, where party loyalists would continue putting forth primary candidates to compete against challengers who petition onto the ballot.
If approved, 107 and 108 would result in primary ballots going to more than 1 million of Colorado's active voters who are neither Democrat nor Republican. Ballots to unaffiliated voters would contain Democrat and Republican candidates. Each unaffiliated voter would choose, for each primary, whether to vote for Democrats or Republicans. They would be allowed to vote for a mix.
Some opponents fear open primaries would further erode the relevance of political parties, turning over too much influence to independents. We believe the opposite is true.
Today's system disenfranchises 36 percent of Colorado's registered voters by leaving them out of the nominating process. Unaffiliated voters generally do not respect Colorado's political parties because they feel snubbed. They often resent the general election candidates each party puts forth.
By including independents, the parties are more likely to choose less-doggedly partisan primary participants who advocate doctrinaire agendas and philosophies that appeal to only a relative few. Parties will have incentive to promote candidates who can effectively appeal to the general public. In doing so, each party is likely to see more acceptance among the growing legions of independents.
Middle-age and mature Americans remember when Democrats and Republicans espoused serious political differences yet worked together toward good policies in a mutual spirit of compromise. Today, partisan standoffs, gridlock and poor results are customary. Colorado's exclusionary, partisan nominating processes encourage marginal political behavior. At least one leading candidate worked the system this year by pledging to avoid reaching across the aisle. The hyper-partisan process culminates in derision toward government.
Unaffiliated voters can no longer be left out of the democratic process. Nearly 47 percent of Colorado voters under age 40 are unaffiliated, and among voters 25 and younger, the number rises to 50 percent.
It is time our state's political parties compete for their support. Our system is broken and can easily be fixed with Propositions 107 and 108. Vote "yes" on both. It is a decision for better candidates, more participation and improved results.
the gazette editorial board