On September 18, the Colorado Republican State Central Committee (SCC) will take a vote on whether to abolish its primary and choose its nominees through a caucus-assembly nominating process instead.
We should reject this proposal.
If the SCC votes yes, it would disenfranchise over 1,000,000 Republicans by denying them the opportunity to vote directly for their preferred candidate in races up and down the ballot, from state legislature to Congress to Governor and U.S. Senate.
Instead, to have any voice at all, Republicans would be tasked with traveling to a designated caucus location some evening in February or March. Out of town? Out of luck. Working the night shift or caring for kids at home? Sorry, no proxies allowed.
Furthermore, those who can attend the caucus don't get to vote directly for candidates, but only for delegates, who in turn vote for candidates at a future gathering called an assembly.
The caucus-assembly process already exists, but currently it performs a more limited function, as only one path to the primary ballot. Under the proposal before the SCC, the caucus-assembly process would replace the primary entirely, with the assembly winners automatically becoming our nominees.
Only 5% of Republicans attend the caucus. To compare, 37% voted in the 2018 primary.
With so few participants, the candidates nominated at the assembly are less likely than primary winners to represent the majority of Republicans. Candidates who appeal to the Republican electorate at large risk losing to skilled political knife-fighters – who would much rather face a few insiders than rank-and-file conservatives.
In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump was rolling to the presidential nomination when he got to Colorado. But at the time, we didn’t have a presidential primary in Colorado, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who understood the caucus-assembly system well, swept the state’s delegates. Trump rightfully lamented in the Wall Street Journal that the assembly vote did not represent the majority of Colorado Republicans.
And in the general election, not representing the majority of Republicans would be only half the problem.
Unaffiliated voters are the largest voting demographic in Colorado. Usually in the primary, unaffiliated voters receive a Republican and Democratic primary ballot – and get to choose which primary to vote in. If we abolish our primary, 1,500,000 unaffiliated voters will receive only a Democrat primary ballot.
That means Democratic candidates will gain name ID while Republican candidates won’t; unaffiliated voters will know the Democrats welcome their participation and Republicans don’t; and many thousands of unaffiliated voters will cast a vote for Democratic primary candidates, and none will vote for Republicans. Unaffiliated voters who vote for a Democrat in the primary are unlikely to vote for the Republican opposing their chosen Democrat in the general.
Republicans already start at a disadvantage in Colorado. Democrats benefit from more registered voters and state media who serve as their propagandists. Only the best Republican candidates, those who appeal both to the broad Republican base and to unaffiliated voters, stand a chance of winning. Nominees selected by a limited number of assembly delegates may not be able to appeal to either.
Colorado Republicans can win big in 2022. Failed Democratic policies are harming Coloradans. Crime and the cost of living are up while recently released test scores show that our public schools are failing.
Now, with independent redistricting commissions fixing our badly gerrymandered district lines, Republicans have a shot at being seriously competitive in legislative races and setting our beautiful state on the right course.
The door is open. Let's not slam it in our own face.
Joel Sorensen is a freshman at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and the youngest member of the Colorado Republican State Central Committee.