DENVER – Colorado expects to pay about $6.3 million to run a March 2020 presidential primary, after a 2016 decision by voters to jettison a cheaper, but confusing, caucus process to determine presidential candidates.
When Gov. Jared Polis announced this week that Colorado will host a primary election on Super Tuesday along with 10 other states, it was the culmination of a years-long process to remake how Colorado handles primary elections. In November 2016, after a chaotic and frustrating caucus session to determine presidential candidates, Colorado voters overwhelmingly chose to abandon caucuses in favor of a traditional primary.
Under the caucus system, political parties convened over an evening to elect delegates who then picked candidates from the primary pool. A primary election, however would allow all voters to participate in the primary selection.
The decision is in keeping with Colorado’s increasingly modern approach to elections, said Serena Woods, spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Colorado has expanded early voting and has an all mail-in ballot, but for the past 20 years, it has been relying on a one-night, in-person, nonbinding caucus session for presidential primaries.
In the November 2016 election, more than 64 percent of voters favored Proposition 107, which jettisoned the caucus system, and more than 53 percent voted in favor of Proposition 108, which allows unaffiliated voters to participate in the primaries.
Lawmakers followed up in 2017 with Senate Bill 305, which allocated general fund money to the election and ensures that the state will reimburse counties for running a presidential primary.
The bill also fine-tuned Props. 107 and 108 and was signed by former Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2017.
According to the new law, Colorado must hold a presidential primary before the end of March, and this week, Polis announced the primary will be held on Super Tuesday, when 10 other major states pick their candidates from the primary pool.
But Colorado will still have its state-office primaries in June, and political parties will still have the option to caucus for state-level races. The state funds neither of these processes – counties pay for local primaries and political parties must pay to run the caucus.
Colorado held presidential primaries from 1992 to 2000, according to The Associated Press, and decided to drop them to save money.