A proposal backed by the Colorado secretary of state to track which primaries independents vote in is drawing fire from critics who say it could undermine the intent of two initiatives that opened party primary elections to unaffiliated voters. If approved, it would allow Colorado’s political parties to obtain voter-specific data on who’s voting in each primary, much as they do with voters who register as Republicans or Democrats. Supporters of such a move, including Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams and both political parties, say it’s needed to ensure the integrity of the state’s elections. But elections officials in Denver and Arapahoe counties dispute that line of reasoning, saying they don’t need to know that information to properly administer and audit an election.
The dispute stems from propositions 107 and 108, ballot initiatives approved by Colorado voters in November that open partisan primary elections in the state, including a re-established presidential primary, to unaffiliated voters.
Differences over how to effectively administer the new primaries have become a broader fight that’s partly motivated by politics. The procedure the state ultimately devises could affect how many unaffiliated voters decide to participate in next year’s gubernatorial primaries and beyond.
“They’re trying to confuse this issue, frankly,” said Amber McReynolds, the director of elections in Denver, of the Republican and Democratic parties. “What they want to know, ultimately, is specific people in the primary they participated in, and that isn’t for canvas and auditing, it’s for campaign purposes.”