It’s primary season in Colorado, and the election ballots have been mailed. Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell says this year, “It’s all about you – ‘U’ that is. That’s because this year, for the first time, unaffiliated voters can select to vote in the major party primaries. And we now have more unaffiliated voters in this county than any party, so it’s going to make a difference here.”
The official Colorado Primary Election is Tuesday, June 26, and ballots should begin to arrive in county mailboxes around June 4. Mitchell said that since Colorado voters decided in the last election to allow any registered voter in the state to vote in the two major party primaries, Democrat and Republican, it has changed county election processes. County clerks have had to expand the primary voting process, adding steps and costs to include unaffiliated voters. The process will assure that all votes count as voters intend.
“The members of the major parties will receive the ballots for the parties they belong to, the same as always. But this year, every unaffiliated voter will receive a packet with two ballots: one Democratic party ballot and one Republican ballot. It’s important people know to just pick one of these ballots to fill out and return. You have to decide. Returning both ballots will disqualify you, and they’ll both be discarded.”
Mitchell, who is president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said across the state things are going remarkably smoothly. While unaffiliated voters can vote in the two major political party primaries, the vote does not extend to members of the minor political parties because they don’t hold primaries. The state has notified those minor parties.
“It’s also important that people know if they want to vote in a particular primary, they are allowed to change their party affiliation to vote in that primary,” said Mitchell. “People have until May 29 to go to www.govoteColorado.com to officially change their party from a minor party to a major party, or to unaffiliated, we refer to it as UAF. But that vote, and in which party they voted, will become public record. After the primary election, people are free to change their party affiliation again, if they choose to.”
As the latest precinct voter counts show, Chaffee County is turning purple. It now has a significantly higher number of unaffiliated voters than either major political party: 4,780 unaffiliated voters, to 4,421 registered Republicans and 3,426 registered members of the Democratic party.
Mitchell says the counties are gearing up for the election with good humor. “Every one of the state’s 64 counties has decorated a wooden “U” for unaffiliated, representing how important these voters are this year,” she explained, holding out Chaffee County’s letter.
“Every county is painting theirs to represent something special about the county. Our ‘U’ is painted to represent our peaks – see? Here is Mt. Shavano and you can clearly see the Angel of Shavano.”
Some of the counties are also getting a giant, yellow, inflatable “U,” which Mitchell says may or may not make an appearance in Chaffee County.
While the state’s website can be used to update voter registration for those already affiliated with a party, Mitchell reassures voters that a vote by an unaffiliated voter in the primary election will not affiliate that voter with a political party. It will simply allow their voice to be heard.
Chaffee County Precinct Voter count*
* Count as of 5/17/18
** combination of Green, Libertarian, Unity, and American Constitutional parties.