Last week, the Iowa caucuses showcased the numerous problems associated with election integrity in a caucus system. As the nation watched, Iowa failed to even attempt to deliver preliminary reports on election night; nor could they provide concrete results in the following days.
Predictably, it did not take long for conspiracy theories to run rampant on social media and cable news. Did the Hillary Clinton workers who built the app crash it on purpose to hurt Bernie Sanders? Were results withheld so that Joe Biden’s bad news cycle would be blunted by the State of the Union address? Are the results even accurate and is there any way to verify them in a timely manner?
If you think this is just a problem for Democrats, think again. Eight years ago, Rick Santorum was denied the momentum of a win when “establishment” candidate Mitt Romney was incorrectly announced as the winner on election night in Iowa. After using the faux win as a springboard, Romney won New Hampshire before it was disclosed that he actually lost the Iowa caucus to Santorum. Romney would go on to win the Republican nomination, but would that have changed if Iowa had correctly recorded its votes?
Colorado has its checkered past with the caucus process. In 2016, Colorado voters were relatively evenly supportive of the top two presidential candidates: Trump and Cruz. Yet when Colorado selected Republican delegates to the National Convention, the caucus process gave Cruz 100% of the delegates. And not respecting the will of the voters, those delegates made national news by walking out on Trump at the convention.
While caucus problems in presidential elections are well-known and make national news, there are even more problems with caucuses for local and state elections in Colorado. Because they are an unfunded mandate by the state government, caucuses are run on shoestring budgets paid for by donors or participants. This archaic system is the epitome of insider baseball often run by volunteers recruited and inspired by shadowy special interests.
And while in Iowa this process has given Democrats a black eye, in Colorado it’s Republicans who bear the brunt of the damage.
Did you stop to wonder why Colorado polls as a centrist independent state, votes fiercely libertarian on ballot issues, and then elects one of the most liberal governments in the country? Nearly every former county and state party chair will tell you it’s because our caucus system empowers a fringe faction of Republicans who profit from existing in the permanent minority. For sure, the Democrats who control the state elections are more than happy to assist in making that happen since it keeps them permanently in power. But having a government that is so far ideologically removed from the actual electorate is unstable and harmful for the future of our state.
Einstein is famously quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Nationwide, we are seeing that caucus systems are outdated and cause massive problems with elections. In Colorado, we have seen that it produces a government that does not represent the people.
In El Paso County, we are now seeing an unprecedented number of candidates choosing to bypass the caucus because, as shown in Iowa, caucuses are simply not credible election systems. In talking with these candidates, they see the same red flags in Colorado that existed in the Iowa caucuses and are hedging against a catastrophe here.
It’s time to end this archaic process inflicted on Colorado by outdated laws and reform our election system to empower primary voters rather than fringe shadow special interest groups.
Eli Bremer is a former chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party.