Legislature is making a mockery of Prop 108

Back in November, voters agreed to unshackle unaffiliated voters and give them unfettered access to vote in publicly financed primary elections.

Before Proposition 108 passed, independent voters had been required to affiliate with a party before voting. Proposition 108 changed that by dropping the affiliation requirement.

It passed despite last-minute tinkering with Blue Book language by state lawmakers from both parties that included some false and misleading claims minimizing the “pros” and overstating the “cons” of the measure.

Let’s consider why. In a closed primary, voter participation is typically low and the candidates selected often appeal to a small number of their party’s more active members — often called “the base.” Voters agreed that opening the primary could result in more moderate candidates. But this disruption of the status quo apparently frightens some lawmakers who have found success by pandering to political extremes.

In the waning days of the session (it ends Wednesday), with a flurry of last-minute bills wending through the Legislature, lawmakers introduced Prop 108’s enabling legislation and included an array of provisions that undermine the intent of the measure.

County clerks have said that an implementation bill isn’t needed until next year. So why the rush? Perhaps the bill’s sponsors were hoping to sneak it through while other bills with fiscal implications dominated the news cycle.

Regardless, the bill doesn’t reflect what voters approved in November. In Saturday’s newspaper, The Sentinel’s Charles Ashby shined a spotlight on Senate Bill 305, which flies in the face of the ballot language voters approved — namely that independent voters could cast ballots without having to declare affiliation with a party.

The bill creates hoops that essentially equate to affiliating. Moreover, the office of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams contends that the party primary in which an unaffiliated voters decides to cast a ballot should be a public record.

With these moves, lawmakers are placing barriers before unaffiliated voters that subvert greater participation in primaries — which is the very reason Proposition 108 was on the ballot.

Williams and the legislators pushing for public disclosure of which party’s primary an unaffiliated voters chooses to vote in are arguing that it’s a matter of election integrity.

But as Jeffrey Roberts, the executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, reported Thursday, six states with open primaries do not require a declaration of primary affiliation. He quoted Amber McReynolds, Denver’s director of elections as saying these states “have been auditing and canvassing just fine.”

Sheila Reiner, Mesa County’s elected clerk and recorder, expressed reservations about the bill. “My hesitation with the bill is having the voters pick a preferred party, and having the ballot they chose be public information post election even if the vote itself is still confidential.”

There are enough questions floating around that lawmakers should pump the brakes and defer to a more deliberative process on this implementation effort. A final Senate vote could come as early as Monday before heading to the House.

Unaffiliated voters should be contacting their representatives and asking why they’re gutting Proposition 108.


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