Pitkin County adjusts for June primary involving independent voters for first time | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County adjusts for June primary involving independent voters for first time

Voting stickers at the Pitkin County Elections Office in Aspen on Tuesday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times


Ballots for next month’s primary will be mailed out the week of June 4 and can be mailed back or dropped off at the Snowmass Village Town Hall, the Basalt Town Hall or the Pitkin County Elections Department in the Ute City Building at 501 E. Hyman Ave.

Early voting will take place June 18-25 at the Aspen Jewish Community Center, 435 W. Main St., from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Voting will take place at the Jewish Community Center on election day —Tuesday, June 26 — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For the first time in Colorado, voters unaffiliated with a political party will be able to participate in the primary election next month.

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill and her staff are preparing to send out both Democratic and Republican primary ballots to all approximately 5,500 independent voters for the June 26 primary, she said last week. Those unaffiliated voters (which represent 45 percent of all registered voters in the country) will then fill out one of the ballots and mail it back or drop it off at one of three locations in Pitkin County, Vos Caudill said.

Unaffiliated voters also can go to uchoose.co.gov and pick which major party ballot they want to receive in the mail beforehand, she said. Those selections will be erased from statewide voter information records after the primary, Vos Caudill said.

Voters affiliated with a particular party still will only be able to participate in that party’s primary. The extra ballots and postage for the June primary will cost the county an extra $4,600 this year, Vos Caudill said, not including staff labor time.

“Our costs will be more for this primary election because our ballots have tripled, and staff and postage and other labor, as well,” Vos Caudill said. “But for the additional presidential primary in 2020, we will be reimbursed.”

The changes are a result of Proposition 108 passed by Colorado voters in November 2016. A companion measure — Proposition 107 — also passed at the same time, and created a presidential primary election mandated to take place in March, which will be separate from the primary that will take place as usual in June.

Both parties came out against the propositions at the time, viewing them as providing a disincentive to joining a party and possibly allowing people with ulterior motives to affect a party’s primary.

Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards offered another take on the measures last week. Allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in primaries could thwart the selection of extreme candidates on the left and right, she said.

“This is a big change for the state of Colorado. Even for those who are party-affiliated,” Richards said, then added: “I really want to encourage those unaffiliated voters to step up and take that role that’s been handed to you. It’s incredibly important in the state.”

Regardless, Proposition 107 means that Vos Caudill will have to conduct three elections in 2020 rather than the usual two.

Colorado’s governor has until Sept. 1, 2019, to designate the date of the presidential primary, which must occur no later than the third Tuesday of March 2020, Vos Caudill said. The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office will pay for that primary in each county, she said.

The primary for the rest of the national, state and local races will be held as usual in June 2020, as will the general election in November, Vos Caudill said.

Unaffiliated voters will be allowed to participate in both 2020 primaries, requiring those voters to either choose which ballot they receive or mail back one of the two party ballots.

Because Pitkin County is nonpartisan, the change this June will not be as pronounced here as it will be in other Colorado counties, Vos Caudill said. Pitkin County’s Home Rule Charter directs candidates to gather 100 signatures from registered county voters in order to appear on the ballot rather than go through party caucuses.

Pitkin County candidates who want support from a party must go to a caucus to receive it and can then appear on the ballot with a party designation, she said.

This year’s local county races will not be featured on the primary ballot because no more than two people are running for any office, and the general election pits the top two vote-getters.