Designing legislative districts that favor one political party or the other is one of the unseen back-room political maneuvers that can have a major influence on the outcome of state elections. But that sort of gerrymander, as the process is often called, may be harder to pull off if an initiated constitutional amendment — Initiative 55 — were to pass. The amendment, which has not yet been certified for the 2016 ballot, could benefit unaffiliated voters in Colorado. Under consideration is a proposal to give them a major role in legislative and congressional redistricting, the drawing of the boundary lines of the districts from which state representatives, state senators, and members of the U.S. House are elected.
One-third of Colorado voters prefer to be unaffiliated in their party registration, which is their right. Many of them are “low-information” citizens, others are turned off by what they see in the Democratic and Republican parties, and some are more moderate in their views. But the choice to register unaffiliated, or independent, means that voters cannot vote in Democratic or Republican caucuses, such as the ones coming up on March 1, for example. Unaffiliated voters cannot attend or vote at political party conventions in Colorado. And unaffiliateds cannot vote in Democratic or Republican primary elections.
Unaffiliated voters in Colorado do have the right to declare a party membership on Election Day and then vote in that political party’s primary, but few unaffiliated voters in Colorado avail themselves of this right.
Democratic and Republican activists sometimes refer to unaffiliated voters as the “lost souls” of Colorado politics. All they get to do is vote in the general elections — and then, in almost all instances, they have to choose between the political party nominees selected for them by the two mainstream political parties.