3 Reasons We Need the Presidential Primary

Written by Caroline Fry, Elections Advocate, Colorado Common Cause on April 27, 2016


Restore the Presidential PrimaryColoradans have the exciting opportunity—right now—to make elections in our state more inclusive, convenient, and representative. 

As we saw this March, the caucus system used to nominate presidential candidates in our state is woefully insufficient. If you missed it, here’s a recap:

  • Hundreds of Democrats were barred from participating due to overcrowded caucus sites1
  • Republicans did not have a say in their party’s presidential nomination process2
  • Unaffiliated voters were completely shut out of the process3


And to top it off, anyone not available on the evening of March 1st had no way to participate.

Luckily, there’s a better way.


Here are three simple reasons why we need to reinstate the presidential primary in Colorado:


1. A presidential primary will give Coloradans more options to participate.

The presidential caucus system requires participants to attend a two-to-three-hour meeting on a weekday evening. The caucus does not give electors the option to vote remotely, vote early, or submit a mail ballot. This means:

  • Pregnant and going into labor?  Make sure to swing by your caucus site on the way to the hospital!
  • Serving in the military? Better book a trip home for March 1st, since absentee voting is not available for the caucus.
  • Boss won’t let you leave work? There’s no law protecting your right to caucus, so you’ll just have to quit. But you can get another job, right?


In contrast, the presidential primary will allow Coloradans to cast their ballot for the presidency with the same convenient options we have for other elections. This includes voting by mail, early voting, and voting in-person at a Voter Service and Polling Center. 

2. A presidential primary will increase voter turnout.

Do me a favor and guess the percentage of eligible voters who participated in the 2016 Colorado caucuses this year. Go ahead—I’ll wait.  

Ready? Here are the facts: In Colorado, only 11 percent of Democrats participated in their party’s precinct caucus, while only 5 percent of Republicans attended their caucus meeting.4

Research shows that presidential primaries attract more voters than presidential caucuses. A study of the 2008 election concluded that the average primary election attracts more than four times as many voters as the average caucus.5  So far in 2016, states with a presidential primary election saw an average 32 percent voter turnout rate. Compare this to states with a presidential caucus, which saw an average 8.5 percent voter turnout rate.6

We Coloradans love our state, and want a say in how our government is run. We can do better. 

3. A presidential primary will give unaffiliated voters a say in the presidential primary process.

Our current system bars unaffiliated Coloradans—who make up nearly 40% of registered voters in the state7—from participating in the presidential caucus. Preventing these voters from having a say in the presidential nomination process is neither representative nor democratic.

The presidential primary will give voters the option to temporarily affiliate with a party for the primary, and automatically un-affiliate after casting their ballot. Temporary affiliation gives voters the option to participate in the primary, but also respects the independent spirit of voters who wish to not identify with a political party.

It’s time to bring the presidential nomination process in Colorado into the 21st century. Please tell your state representatives to restore the presidential primary in Colorado by voting YES on HB16-1454.

 

Office: Colorado Common Cause

Issues: Voting and Elections

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