At least one of the state’s political parties is not happy with Colorado’s open primary system, which allows registered, unaffiliated voters to vote in the state party primaries of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Now Republicans appear poised to take on the system by suing the state of Colorado.
The Republican State Central Committee voted to challenge the open primary in federal court and the executive board also voted to advance a lawsuit. This comes only a few months after they elected themselves “a wartime” leader; Dave Williams (an election denier) as State Chair.
“It’s no secret that despite the overwhelming majority (near unanimous in fact) of our Republican State Central Committee voting to officially pursue a lawsuit against the unconstitutional open primary two years ago, the past administration and Chairwoman didn’t make this critical effort a priority,” wrote Colorado Republican Chair Dave Williams in a message to the state’s Republicans.
The party needs funding to proceed with the law suit and Williams confirms that an actual bank account has been created to accept funds for those who want to be part of the effort to overturn the state’s primary setup. An independent oversight committee chaired by former State Senator Kevin Lundberg will monitor it.
“Republicans Should Choose Republican Candidates,” writes Williams. “That should be a self-evident statement, but in Colorado, it is not true. In 2022 more than twice as many unaffiliated voters received a Republican ballot in the primary than registered Republicans, and nearly 40 percent of those who voted in the Republican primary were not registered Republicans.
While Republicans refer to this as an “upside-down election policy,” state voters, who approved the open primary system in 2016, appear to like it just fine. The arrangement, which permits unaffiliated voters to vote in a party primary is based on the logic that allowing unaffiliated voters a say would result in more moderate candidates that would fare better in the statewide elections.
Williams asserts (without proof) that it is the new primary rules that have resulted in a significant drop in Colorado Republican membership. In fact, Williams calls the results devastating to Colorado Republicans., blaming the primary setup for a “broke-economy” (hard to see with unemployment hovering just a bit more than two percent) and a “woke-world”.
Over the past two decades, Republicans have steadily lost registered voters in Colorado. The trend got worse after Trump took office. By January 2022, registered Republicans declined to 24.2 percent of registered voters, down from 31.1 percent in January 2016. The 2022 election cycle only intensified the loss of political power.
It is also true that the Colorado voters appear to have voted for Democratic party control. “There are no statewide Republican elected officials, the legislature has the least number of Republicans in 80 years, and the number of Republican county officials is dropping,” says Williams.
Williams says people should know that not only has the open primary increased the cost of primary elections for counties and candidates, but that now primary candidates have to do more marketing to a broader audience. Not only that, but according to Williams, in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jones Decision declared that a political party cannot be forced into an open primary system because “It violates the citizens’ constitutional freedom of association.”
While the Republican State Central Committee has voted to challenge the open primary in federal court and the party’s executive board has voted to move forward with this lawsuit, the next challenge is of course — money. Williams is seeking donations (non-tax-deductible) but this effort doesn’t count toward any member’s political contribution limit because they aren’t focused on any single candidate.