Election 2018Hot Sheet

Election officials launch campaign to help unaffiliated voters cast ballots for first time in primary

Author: Ernest Luning - March 31, 2018 - Updated: March 31, 2018

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Secretary of State Wayne Williams writes “community” on a giant inflatable “U” at an event on Friday, March 30, 2018, in Grand Junction kicking off an awareness campaign about unaffiliated voters’ ability to vote in Colorado’s upcoming primary election. (Photo courtesy Mesa County Elections via Facebook)

For the first time, Colorado’s unaffiliated voters can cast ballots in the June 26 primary election without having to join a party — and they’ll have some help figuring it all out from an 8-foot, yellow, inflatable U.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams kicked off the campaign Friday in Grand Junction with his predecessor Bernie Buescher and Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner. In addition to introducing one of the giant, yellow U’s — three of the things will be traveling the state — the election officials encouraged Colorado’s 1.4 million unaffiliated voters to go online and request either a Democratic or Republican primary ballot by early May, potentially saving county governments plenty in postage and avoiding confusion when it comes time to vote.

“We are customer-service oriented and want to provide the easiest voting experience possible,” Reiner said. “We are also stewards of taxpayers’ money. If an unaffiliated voter can give us a preference in advance by visiting www.govotecolorado.com, their ballot packet will cost the county 62 cents instead of $1.”

Unaffiliated voters who don’t declare a preference in time will receive both major parties’ primary ballots in the mail in early June but can only return one of them — because if they return them both, they’ll both be thrown out.

Out of the 29,484 unaffiliated voters who had signed up through Tuesday to receive a particular primary ballot, 54 percent said they wanted the Democratic ballot, and 40 percent wanted a Republican ballot. The remainder asked to receive a ballot from one of the state’s four minor parties — the Libertarians, Greens, American Constitution Party and Unity Party — but election officials noted that if the minor party they chose doesn’t have a contested primary, those voters will receive both major parties’ ballots.

Registered Republicans and Democrats will receive their party’s primary ballot, as usual.

Both major parties are likely to have crowded, competitive primaries up and down their ballots for the first time in decades. While the primary line-ups won’t be finalized until late April, it looks like the Republicans and Democrats will both have several candidates for governor on the ballot, as well as possible primaries for state treasurer and attorney general. Nearly every congressional district could be looking at primaries in one or both parties this year, and numerous legislative primaries are likely all over the state.

Colorado voters approved allowing unaffiliated voters to take part in primaries in 2016 with the passage of Proposition 108, joining 22 other states with some form of open primary. Officials say the education campaign — backed up by targeted digital advertising — will let unaffiliated voters know they can participate and might reduce the number of ballots rejected because voters fill out more than one.

“We want to make sure those votes count,” Williams said at the launch event.

According to a poll of unaffiliated voters conducted in December, 47 percent didn’t realize they could vote in the upcoming primary, 39 percent said they planned to cast ballots, and 28 percent said they weren’t sure.

The “UChooseCO” campaign continues with press conferences Tuesday in Colorado Springs and Denver. It’s also got a website, a Facebook page and its own Twitter account.

 

The Colorado Springs event features Williams, Mayor John Suthers, El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman and City Council President Richard Skorman, who is unaffiliated. It’s at 10:30 a.m. at the Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St.

Williams will also be at the Denver event at 2 p.m. on the steps of the state Capitol. It also includes Kent Thiry, the DaVita CEO who funded Proposition 108, as well as Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President Kelly Brough and state Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat.

In addition to the big yellow U’s, the campaign distributed wooden U’s and asked recipients to decorate them. Organizers compared the endeavor to the Mask Project.

 

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.