August 24, 2016
Contact: Myung Kim
(303) 502-4000

Coloradans will be asked to restore presidential primary, open taxpayer-financed primaries to unaffiliated voters

DENVER — Colorado voters will be asked this fall to re-institute a presidential primary and to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in taxpayer-financed primary elections without choosing a party.

The measures were approved for the ballot today by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office after verifying that enough voter signatures had been collected.

"Colorado voters value independence and want elections that encourage participation,” said Kent Thiry, Let Colorado Vote Campaign Chair and CEO of DaVita. “Only 5% of voters participated in the March caucuses, which is not a sign of a healthy democracy. Our initiatives will fix that and allow more than 1 million unaffiliated voters to participate in elections that they currently pay for, but thus far have been excluded from.”

The two measures would change state law (as opposed to amending the constitution):

  • Initiative 140, which will restore a presidential primary and allow unaffiliated voters to participate without affiliating with a party;
  • Initiative 98, which will allow the state’s more than 1 million unaffiliated voters to participate in taxpayer-financed primary elections without affiliating with a party.

“We believe, strongly, that allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in taxpayer funded primary elections is a matter of fairness,” said John Hereford, Let Colorado Vote Vice Chair and founder of Oak Leaf Energy Partners. “Engaging a broader cross-section of the voting spectrum in primaries will make our politicians more responsive to the center and not just the extreme wings of their respective parties.”

Colorado leads the nation in the growth of unaffiliated – or independent – voters since 2008, and they now make up 36% of all voters in the state.

But unaffiliated voters in Colorado face barriers that don’t exist in most other states. Colorado is among a minority of states that excludes unaffiliated voters from taxpayer-financed primary elections, and history shows that this system discourages participation.

Turnout for Colorado’s primary elections has been dropping since 2010, and just 1 in 5 voters participated in the state’s June primary.

The current primary does not include the presidential race, which is handled through a caucus system with preference polls rather than official ballots. Fewer than 190,000 of the state’s 3 million voters participated in the March caucuses.

Other campaign Vice Chairs are: Kelly Brough, President/CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber; Don Childears, President/CEO �of the Colorado Bankers Association; Cole Finegan, partner at Hogan Lovells US; and Mike Kopp, executive director of Colorado Concern.

Let Colorado Vote is supported by a diverse array of individuals and organizations, including: Gov. John Hickenlooper; former Govs. Bill Ritter, Bill Owens, Roy Romer and Dick Lamm; former U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Hank Brown; Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers; former Transportation Secretary Federico Peña; and civic and business groups, including: the Denver Metro Chamber, Colorado Concern, the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, Club 20, the Colorado Association of Realtors, the Colorado Contractors Association, the Metro Mayors Caucus, Progressive 15, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the Vail Valley Partnership.

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