Athanasopoulos: Why we must delay Proposition 108

Author: George Athanasopoulos - March 6, 2017 - Updated: March 4, 2017

George Athanasopoulos
George Athanasopoulos

Our election process is being hijacked by big money interests, and if we don’t take a stand today, tomorrow will be too late. To save our electoral process, the Colorado General Assembly must pass a bill this session delaying the implementation of Proposition 108.

Proposition 108 was passed by the voters last November but it was sold under false pretenses. Based on the 2016 presidential caucuses, there were many Democrats and Republicans who were justifiably angry that they couldn’t vote for their preferred presidential candidate. Seizing that opportunity, big money interests in Colorado used that anger to ram through two unconstitutional propositions at the ballot box after they were defeated in the General Assembly.

The stated purpose of these propositions is to return a presidential primary to Colorado and open each party’s primary process to unaffiliated voters. On the surface, these may appear reasonable. However, political parties are private organizations. Non-party members have as much right to select our nominees as I do in selecting the president of a local teachers union. Namely, none.

Tashjian v. Republican Party and California Democratic Party v. Jones both held that political parties have the right under the First and 14th Amendments to enter into political associations with individuals of their own choosing. Colorado’s voters cannot dictate who may, or may not, choose any political party’s nominees.

Backers of these propositions will counter that they pass legal muster because they contain an opt-out provision. This argument is preposterous. Their so-called opt-out provision imposes an unjust and unreasonably high bar, requiring that three-quarters of the total membership of a political party’s state central committee vote to withdraw from the primary process. Big money interests have no more right to determine our internal decision making processes then they do in forcing us to accept the votes of non-party members.

However, constitutional propriety is not a driving concern of the backers of Propositions 107 & 108. Consolidating power in their own hands is. Open primaries will flood the primary electorate with another million voters who can choose with which party they want to cast their ballot. The practical effect will be that the candidates with the most money will have a nearly insurmountable advantage. Name recognition will become decisive in all mail-ballot party primaries. The ability to run television commercials and expensive advertising campaigns in April will determine each party’s winners.

If I am elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, I will immediately push for a bill to delay the implementation of Proposition 108. My victory will affirm this course of action as having the support of Colorado Republicans. I believe that Democrats and other political parties will join us in this effort because the effects of these propositions are as bad for them as they are for us.

A delay will give our elected officials the time necessary to craft better election laws. Proposition 107’s unfunded mandate of two separate primary elections in 2020 is significant but far from the extent of our problems. We need significant reform of our election laws and this is the necessary first step.

If a bill delaying the implementation of Proposition 108 is not passed, the Colorado Republican Party will seek injunctive relief through the courts. We will be successful because the constitutional precedent is clear and the urgency of our cause readily apparent. As Justice Antonin Scalia stated in the Supreme Court’s California Democratic Party v. Jones 7-2 opinion, “A single election in which the party nominee is selected by nonparty members could be enough to destroy the party.”

Political parties are independent, private organizations. We should never concede to a system that favors only the wealthiest or most politically connected. Average Coloradans who aspire to become public servants should not be systemically marginalized. Therefore, the Colorado Republican Party under my leadership will never support a system that eviscerates our ability to nominate candidates of our own choosing.

George Athanasopoulos

George Athanasopoulos

George Athanasopoulos (@gjathanas) is the founder and president of elephantMade, LLC and a former candidate for Colorado Republican Party chairman.


  • Philip Perington

    March 6, 2017 at 7:24 am

    The solution is really quite simple. Allow unaffiliated voters to have their own caucus. The voter registration numbers clearly indicate there is a third political force alive and well in Colorado and all accross the United States. Gallup reports 44% of registered voters are now unaffiliated. The Dems and Repubs have lost the trust of a great portion of voters reeling under the influence of a worn out and embedded two party System.

    Philip Perington,
    Colorado Democrat State Party Chairman 1997-99.

  • Harvie Branscomb

    March 7, 2017 at 7:40 am

    I too think there is a sensible solution for involving unaffiliated electors at primary time.

    First off, recall that a presidential primary doesn’t decide who will vote at the national convention. The party process of caucus and assemblies does that and will still be needed to do that. All the open primary does is restrain who delegates can vote for – an obstruction to necessary consensus building within parties.

    Unaffiliated voters do deserve a combination ballot with all partisan and non partisan candidates on it and the ability to vote for any or all who are acceptable – by Approval Voting – vote for one or more. This would be a separately reported election like a straw poll – not binding. Parties would love to know whom the unaffiliated voters will support in a general election. And parties deserve to have candidates supported by registered party members that give the party meaning.

    There is concern at the legislature that under 107 and 108 – with U voters included – that the party primaries may no longer elect the usual partisan candidates. It seems many incumbents might consider petitioning on instead of depending on the party process.

    If this happens, we may end up with a not-so-partisan party in each county – at least for the minority party in each – much like George suggests. And the original minority party may simply lose meaning and purpose to unaffiliated voters of the moment. Arguably the minority party primary may become a splinter of the majority party instead.

    Much better to keep our parties intact but much more aware of the voting intentions of unaffiliateds by letting them freely vote for anyone they want in a separate, non-binding election.

    • Harvie Branscomb

      March 7, 2017 at 7:42 am

      More info on Approval Voting is at http://av4co.org Look for Rep. Jonathan Singer’s upcoming bill to enable AV as an option for Colorado.

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