Monday, March 5, 2018 6:00 PM
Sam Green/The Journal

Caucus Chairman Jim Mahlberg, reflected in the mirror at right, leads the 2016 Republican caucus in Mancos.

Colorado’s political precinct caucuses, which will be held at 7 p.m. today (for a list of precinct locations in Montezuma County, see Page 8A), are the first formal opportunity for voters to weigh in on the candidates and issues in the 2018 election.

Precinct caucuses are meetings of registered electors within a defined geographic area who are members of a major political party, in Colorado, the Republican and Democratic parties. The purpose of the caucuses is to elect precinct committee members and delegates to party county assemblies.

The caucuses are also the place where new ideas bubble up and begin to be discussed, debated and refined by committed individuals who have the power to shape the future of their party.

Those ideas may not reach the local ballot in November or the national stage for years or perhaps decades, and others will drop from view without notice. But a few, hatched in local precincts under the care of voters, not professional politicians, will take flight. That’s politics.

And this is where it starts. This is the ground floor of partisan decision-making, and participation is in everyone’s best interest. It’s a shame more people don’t take part.

Unregistered voters, unaffiliated voters, those who are registered as members of what the state considers “minor” parties, and others who wanted to switch, had until Jan. 8 to register as Republican or Democrat to participate in the caucus of one of those parties.

As a general rule, with many exceptions, Greens caucus with Democrats, Libertarians with Republicans, and so on, but other voters cross wider gaps. Most of the rural counties of Western Colorado have quite a few registered “Republicans” who may never vote for a Republican in the general election because in places where one party dominates, decisions made early in the election season determine November’s victors.

Because the state has so many voters who are, for the rest of the year, unaffiliated, those who are registered with a party for caucuses, assemblies and primaries can make a sizable difference.

That system may not seem fair, as it allows influence in a political party by people who are not, by affinity, members, but the United States allows any eligible voter to vote for any eligible candidate, and that’s a right that shouldn’t be surrendered.

So go ahead: Caucus! Visit or stop by or call the Montezuma County clerk’s election office at 564-2734 and 564-2736 to view the Voter Precinct Map to determine the location of your caucus. The election office will be staffed and open today from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and staff will available by phone from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Find your location, then spend the time and energy to be part of representative democracy in the United States of America.

All our political issues, from the most local to the most global, demand our best ideas, greatest minds and most dedicated effort.

This is not the year to let others make decisions on your behalf.