Wyoming: Lawmakers nix GOP-backed party registration bill | Associated Press

An all-Republican Wyoming legislative committee defeated a GOP-backed bill Tuesday that would have prevented voters from changing party affiliation in the months before a primary, but the panel advanced a Democrat’s proposal to institute ranked-choice voting.

The party-affiliation bill sought to discourage people from switching parties in order to vote in another party’s primary. Republicans in Wyoming increasingly complain that Democratic crossover unfairly influences Wyoming’s GOP primaries. All five members of the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee — all of whom are Republicans — opposed or had reservations about the change, however. “I can’t find hardly anybody in my district who sees this as an issue. In fact, quite the opposite,” said Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, the committee chairman.

Wyoming: Senate Committee Takes Testimony On Crossover Voting | KGAB

The Wyoming Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Thursday morning took testimony on a bill that aims to discourage crossover voting in Wyoming primary elections, but held-over taking a vote on the proposal until Tuesday. Committee members also said they would take more testimony on the bill at that time. Senate File 32 would bar people from changing their party registration in the ten weeks leading up to the primary election. That date coincides with the first day for candidates to file to run in a Wyoming primary.

Colorado: Open and presidential primaries are now the law in Colorado | Denver Business Journal

The mechanisms are in place for Colorado to have an open primary next year and a presidential primary in 2020. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday signed into law Senate Bill 305, giving direction to county clerks on how to conduct the elections that are new or revived in this state. Up until now, primary elections have been restricted to registered members of political parties, and Colorado has been in the minority of states that chooses its presidential party nominees via a caucus system where residents must be registered with the party and attend meetings.

Voting Blogs: Hawaii Open Primary Case – The Political Parties and Their Problems | More Soft Money Hard Law

The Supreme Court has refused to review a Ninth Circuit ruling denying political parties the right to exclude nonmembers from participation in their primaries. Hawaii law requires an open primary, and under the Ninth Circuit decision, parties would bear the burden of showing that this requirement severely burdens their rights of association. In other words when parties must open their candidate selection processes to non-members, the infringement of that associational right is not, apparently, self-evident.

Montana: Supreme Court Denies Challenges To Open Primaries In Montana, Hawaii | MTPR

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday turned away challenges to open primaries in Hawaii and Montana. Bozeman attorney Matthew Monforton, who served as a Republican Legislator in 2015, concedes this is the end of the line for Montanans who support closed primaries: “This was our last shot. This was our last chance for Republican voters to take back their primaries and it will go nowhere from here on out.

South Dakota: Voters May See Open Primaries Amendment in 2018 | Associated Press

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would switch South Dakota to an open primary system for some political offices say they plan to put the measure before voters in 2018. The effort includes veterans of a campaign last year for a similar amendment that didn’t pass, but backers of the new proposal say they’ve learned lessons from the previous push. Joe Kirby, chairman of the group proposing the constitutional amendment, said it would apply to primaries including those for the state Legislature, governor and congressional offices. For example, in a gubernatorial race under the plan, there would be an open primary in which the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

Colorado: Open primary bill advances, without provision linking voters to parties | The Denver Post

A measure to implement Colorado’s new open primaries cleared the Colorado Senate and a House committee in rapid succession Monday, after lawmakers reached a late deal tweaking a controversial provision that would ask independent voters to declare a party preference. With the changes, the path now seems clear for Senate Bill 305 to become law. But it would retain a few key, disputed pieces from the original measure: unaffiliated voters still will be asked before the election if they prefer one party’s ballot to the other, and the party primary they choose to vote in still will be a matter of public record. When the measure was introduced, it immediately was assailed by supporters of open primaries, including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Let Colorado Vote, who complained that it would undermine what Colorado voters intended when they passed two ballot measures opening the state’s party primaries to unaffiliated voters.

Nevada: Democrats block open primary bill | Reno Gazette-Journal

State Senate Democrats are blocking a bill introduced by a Republican that would switch from partisan to open primaries, allowing all registered voters regardless of party in Nevada to participate. Senate Bill 103 introduced by state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, would have created an open primary process where the top two vote-getters in the primary move on to the general election. Currently, Nevada holds partisan primaries where only registered party members can vote, essentially keeping around 28 percent of registered voters – about 413,000 people – from participating. Despite Democrats’ policy outline – called the “Nevada Blueprint” – expressly stating they would “Fight to ensure that voting is free, fair, and accessible for all eligible voters in Nevada,” Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said Settelmeyer’s bill won’t get a hearing.

Pennsylvania: State senator wants independent voters in state primaries | WFMZ

Pennsylvania Sen. Lisa Boscola said state Senate leaders are drafting a voters bill of rights, a collection of bipartisan proposals that would make it easier to vote with things like no-excuse required absentee ballots, same-day registration and pre-registration of younger voters when they get their first drivers license. Boscola said the package also addresses gerrymandering. “Take it out of the hands of the elected officials and put it into the hands of the citizenry, like some other states have done, that promotes better government,” said Boscola. Boscola said she is working on a bill that would build that better government by allowing independent voters to participate in primary elections.

New Mexico: Legislature mulls move to open primaries | Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers will consider electoral reforms to make it easier for independents to vote in primary elections and to run for state office, amid a steady shift away from major party registration in the state. Republican and Democratic lawmakers filed proposed legislation and constitutional changes on Monday that would upend New Mexico’s closed primary system that excludes independent voters from major party primaries. One new bill would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections for a major party of their choice. The two bill sponsors — Republican Rep. Jim Dines of Albuquerque and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos — said younger voters in particular are being shut out of the electoral process because they do not identify closely with major parties. “For me, the issue is access,” Garcia Richard said. “This is a way, I believe, of taking down barriers to access to the ballot.”

Colorado: After Bernie Sanders Delegate Issue, State Creates Open Primaries For Independent Voters | IBT

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two ballot measures — Proposition 107 and Proposition 108 — into law Tuesday. The measures call for presidential primaries to be held every four years in the state and allow unaffiliated voters to cast their ballots in the primary elections. Proposition 107 was approved by 64 percent of voters during the Nov. 8 election. The measure is expected to increase spending in the secretary of state’s office by nearly $210,000 during 2018-2019 and by $2.7 million during 2019-2020, when the next presidential elections will be held at which time the presidential primaries will be conducted. Spending is expected to increase every four years. “I think that a caucus doesn’t allow all the people who want to have a voice to have one,” Jessie Koerner, spokeswoman of Let Colorado Vote, reportedly said. “Only five percent of eligible voters voted in the caucus. So that really shows you how few people are able to take part.”

National: Congressional Black Caucus balks at two political reforms being pitched by Bernie Sanders | The Washington Post

The Congressional Black Caucus is voicing strong opposition to two key political reforms being sought by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention: abolishing superdelegates and opening up Democratic primaries and caucuses to independent voters. Sanders is seeking to leverage his unexpectedly strong showing against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race this year to secure a series of policy and political objectives. Although none of the political reforms Sanders is seeking would affect his standing now, they are rooted in his frustrations with the contest against Clinton. As of Sunday night, 587 superdelegates had announced their support for Clinton compared with 48 for Sanders, who sought to make a virtue of running against the “political establishment.” As a rule, the senator from Vermont also performed better against Clinton in primaries and caucuses where independent voters could participate. In a letter sent to Sanders and Clinton on Saturday, the Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they oppose changes in both areas.

Montana: Judge tosses closed primary lawsuit, but fight is not over | Associated Press

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to allow only Republican-registered voters to participate in its primary elections. But the legal fight to throw out Montana’s century-old open primary system isn’t over yet. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris dismissed the lawsuit by the Montana Republican Party and 10 GOP county central committees that claimed open primaries allow Democrats and independent voters to influence the outcome of their elections. The system violates Republicans’ freedom of association and forces candidates to change their message to appeal to “crossover voters,” the lawsuit said. The dismissal comes at the Republicans’ request after after a series of rulings by Morris, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court that ensured the June 7 primary elections will remain open to all registered voters.

Editorials: Florida needs open primary | Tampa Bay Times

First the good news: Tens of thousands of voters in Florida are rushing to register as Democrats or Republicans to have their voices heard in the upcoming presidential primary. But these voters don’t identify with the two major parties, and forcing them to pick sides only reinforces an antiquated and disenfranchising elections system. Florida needs to adopt an open primary to fully and fairly bring these voters into the political process. As the Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Bousquet reported Wednesday, nonpartisan voters scrambled to meet Tuesday’s registration deadline to vote in the state’s presidential primary March 15. Florida is the largest of 13 states that still have closed primaries, meaning that only Democrats and Republicans can vote in those parties’ nomination races.

Montana: Lawsuit challenging open primaries headed to trial | Associated Press

Montana Republican officials plan to file an emergency appeal seeking to close the June primary elections to voters who aren’t registered party members, their attorney said Tuesday. The decision by the 10 GOP county central committees to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes after U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Monday denied their request for an order to close the upcoming GOP primaries, attorney Matthew Monforton said. Morris ruled that the Republican plaintiffs have too many unproven claims in their constitutional challenge to the state’s open primary system to decide the case without a trial. They have presented enough evidence to continue the case, but must have data supporting their claims that the system harms their freedom to associate with other party members and forces candidates to change their messages.