Giving Thought: Exercise your rights and vote on March 3

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought
Tamara Tormohlen
Steve Mundinger

The run-up to the 2020 presidential election is in full swing. Debates, caucuses and primary contests are underway across the country. Colorado is no exception. There will be three statewide elections this year and the first occurs in just a week, Tuesday, March 3.

The upcoming contest will help decide the Republican and Democratic nominees for president of the United States. It’s known as Super Tuesday because 14 states — Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia — will have their say in choosing the two parties’ nominees for the nation’s highest office.

For Colorado, this is a momentous occasion.

“The state of Colorado has not had a presidential primary in more than 20 years,” said Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill. “In terms of (voter) turnout, I don’t really know what to expect.”

If you care about the presidential race, then now would be a good time to get involved. If you still need to register to vote, then grab your Colorado driver license or ID card and visit your county clerk’s office, where you can both register and fill out your ballot anytime on or before election day.

“We cannot mail out any ballots after Feb. 24,” said Vos Caudill. “So my recommendation is to come in to our service center and early vote.”

Before addressing some potentially confusing aspects of the March 3 ballot, I’ll first touch on the other two statewide elections coming our way in 2020.

On June 30, Colorado will hold another primary election. Voters will choose Republican and Democratic nominees for other elected offices, including one U.S. Senate seat, seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (Roaring Fork Valley residents live in Congressional District 3), and other state offices. The upcoming Super Tuesday primary involves only one office — the presidency — but the June 30 election will involve a longer ballot with more races to consider.

On Nov. 3, comes the general election. As of today, we don’t know all the issues and races that might appear on the Nov. 3 ballot, but we do know that Coloradans will vote on the U.S. president, one U.S. senator, seven U.S. congressional seats and a host of other state and local issues.

Now back to Super Tuesday. If you’re a registered voter, then you should have received your ballot by now in the mail. The Republican ballot includes six candidates, but it’s a practical certainty that incumbent Donald Trump will be the party’s nominee.

If you’re a registered Democrat, then your ballot includes 17 names. It’s important to know that many of these people have dropped out of the presidential race since the ballots were printed, so check online to see who remains in the running. As of Feb. 20, there were eight Democratic candidates remaining: Joseph Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren. This list could change by March 3, so a good place to double-check is the New York Times home page. First click on “politics” and then “presidential candidates” to see who’s still in.

If you’re an unaffiliated voter, then you’ve received two ballots, one Republican and one Democratic. You may fill out only one of them, and the other must be discarded. If you send in two ballots, they’ll both be disqualified.

It is recommended that you deliver your ballot to a county-controlled drop box. By mailing the ballot, one runs the risk it won’t be delivered on time, and ballots must be received by your county clerk — not just postmarked — on or before election day.

Why am I, as the executive director of Aspen Community Foundation, devoting a newspaper column to this topic? Because we all live in a representative democracy and one sign of a healthy, functioning democracy is civic engagement, which includes political participation. Exercising your right to vote is important and fundamental to being American. Voting is your chance to make your voice heard, to influence the laws that frame your life and to choose the decision-makers in your local, state and federal government.

So, whatever your beliefs or your political party, I say participate and cast your ballot.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.