Voters unhappy with the political system this year and unsure about whether their vote matters have big complaints how the country’s two main political parties choose their candidates. A recent Associated Press-NORC poll found that about 40 percent of adults had hardly any confidence in the fairness of either party’s nominating process. In particular, party-run caucuses and closed primaries where only voters registered with a party are allowed to participate are viewed as unfair, with just 29 percent of respondents believing they’re the right way to pick a candidates for the general election. Those tensions are all on display in Colorado this year, where a series of events have caused voters to deeply question whether they should adopt a presidential primary open to all voters. But Colorado’s case also makes it clear that making big changes to how a state makes its picks for presidential nominees is no easy matter. For Colorado Democrats, the problem was crowding. Record turnout overwhelmed many precinct locations. Some voters waited hours to make their preference known, while others were turned away by fire marshals.
Republicans had a very different experience. The state party decided not to hold a presidential vote on caucus night. When Colorado’s Republican National Convention delegation – selected at the state assembly – ended up packed with Ted Cruz supporters, backers of businessman Donald Trump erupted in fury.
“This election season has really shown everyone how fake it is. And how disenfranchising it is,” says Trump supporter Erin Behrens of the caucus process. Behrens organized a protest at the state capitol over the Colorado GOP’s delegate selection process. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why in the world is this our system?”
Behrens thinks caucuses give too few people too much power – the party apparatus has complete control of how they’re run, and most party members opt to skip them. This year fewer than one in ten active Republicans and Democrats turned out to caucus.