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.
If unaffiliated voters designate a preference in which major parties’ primary they want to cast a ballot without actually joining that party, they would be tagged as someone who voted in that political primary under a bill that is racing through the Colorado Legislature. Some county clerks say that provision in SB305, a bill that was introduced only last Wednesday and is being fast-tracked, flies in the face of the ballot question voters overwhelmingly approved last fall that allows unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the party primary races without having to declare affiliation with that party. The bill, which won preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate on Friday, calls for sending voters two ballots during a primary election, with instructions to return only one.
Editorials: Initiative 55: Giving Colorado’s unaffiliated voters a voice | Thomas E. Cronin and Robert D. Loevy/The Denver Post
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.