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THe Republican PArty Should reject the Open Primary

By Former State Senator Kevin Lundberg

In November of 2016, Proposition 108 was passed, creating Open Primary elections in Colorado. I didn’t vote for it, but I must admit that while it was percolating through the Initiative process in the spring of 2016, I was busy with dozens of issues in the State Senate and I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I do recall that ballot Proposition 108 was overshadowed by a companion measure, Proposition 107, which reestablished the Presidential Primary in Colorado.

However, recently several other Republicans have been pushing for the party to reject this system where non-Republican voters are allowed to help select the candidates the GOP fields for the general election. I have now looked more deeply into this odd system for selecting candidates created by Proposition 108, and what I have found is quite disturbing.

The deceptively named “Open Primary” defeats the basic concept of registered voters voluntarily aligning themselves with a political party reflecting their values and principles. It puts much of the decision in the hands of non-Republican voters.

  • It encourages voters to not declare any party affiliation, as they then have greater choices in primary elections.

  • It also creates greater opportunities for the political operatives to swing primary elections through shrewdmarketing, legal and otherwise.

  • And importantly, it makes campaigning for public office much more expensive for the candidates, as the pool of potential primary election voters has essentially doubled.

These last two points mean that open primaries make running for office a richer man’s game, pushing out average citizens from being able to compete in this ultra-expensive system.

Is that what Coloradans want?

The primary argument for “Open Primaries” is that it will result in “more moderate candidates” from each party. However, the extreme left policies coming from the legislature since open primaries began certainly discredits that theory. The dominance of the progressive Democrat-majority also tells us open primaries have done no favors for the Republican brand.

There is a popular misconception about voters who register as Unaffiliated: They are often called “Independents,” but nonpartisan academic research has revealed that over 80% of Unaffiliated voters lean Left or Right and consistently vote either Democrat or Republican. Only about 17% of Unaffiliated voters approach genuine independence, consistently voting for the best candidate regardless of party. We do know from polling that in recent elections, Unaffiliated voters cast ballots for Democrat candidates over Republican candidates by a 60-40 ratio. Twenty years ago it was closer to 50-50.

We should ask, why do so few states engage in Open Primaries? Maybe there is a good reason. In a 2000 decision by the US Supreme Court (California Democratic Party v. Jones), the court said a state sanctioned Open Primary violated the First Amendment rights of citizens if it forced political parties to accept an Open Primary.

Therefore, in an attempt to circumvent that U.S. Supreme Court decision, the authors of Proposition 108 allowed a party to “opt out.” I put that in quotes because the “opt out” created in Proposition 108 is really a farce.

It requires 75% of the full membership of the State Central Committee to approve the “opt out,” and to hold that vote for every primary election (every two years). This ridiculously high standard poses an insurmountable obstacle to choosing the opt-out and can never be achieved. To my knowledge, no other government enterprise, regulatory body or state or local governmental entity is required to make decisions by 75% super-duper majority.

All of this points to one conclusion: Proposition 108 is very likely unconstitutional under the US Supreme Court’s JONES ruling as a violation of First Amendment freedoms. I don’t know why the Republican Party has put up with this absurd law for two complete election cycles.

The Republican Party’s central committee will be meeting in mid-September. I believe this law should be challenged. At a bare minimum the question should be put to the central committee this September — and decided by simple majority vote, not the ridiculous 75% standard.

The committee should ignore the provisions of this totally dysfunctional statute and by a simple majority vote of the Central Committee quorum direct the party to take the necessary steps to nominate Republican candidates exclusively through expanded caucuses and assemblies, and dare the Secretary of State and the Democrat Party to sue the Republican Party to enforce an unconstitutional barrier. It is highly likely the Republican Party will win that legal battle.

The central committee should NOT try to meet the 75% threshold of this unconstitutional statute. The motion should simply put the question before the committee of whether the party should find a way to challenge thisunconstitutional, dysfunctional, dangerous law.

The Republican Party exists to field Republican candidates for office. The first order of business for the central committee should be doing all they can to ensure that registered Republicans select those candidates who will run for office in the general election under the Republican banner. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.