Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Legislation in the Works to Reestablish a Presidential Primary in Colorado

John Frank at the Denver Post is reporting that legislation is in the works to bring back a presidential primary in Colorado for the first time since the 2000 presidential election cycle. The parties in the Centennial state have operated under a caucuses/convention system in the three cycles since.

Some of the details have yet to be fully ironed out but the rough plan at this point is to reestablish the presidential primary, but leave the date up to the discretion of the governor. This is similar in some ways to how Arizona handled the setting of its presidential primary date from 2004-2012.1 Unlike Arizona, however, the proposed gubernatorial date-setting authority would be constrained. The governor would not be able to position the proposed presidential primary on a date out of compliance with the national party rules.2 In 2016, the primary could not be scheduled for a date any earlier than March 1.

The switch from caucuses to a primary would also mean that unaffiliated voters could participate; a change from the current system. Even with that provision, both parties are seemingly onboard with the switch. Via Frank:
“It provides more Coloradans the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process,” said Rick Palacio, the Democratic chairman. 
“Giving voters a choice of who represents them in the general election through a presidential primary will be good for Colorado across the board,” said GOP Chairman Steve House in a statement. “It will give this critical swing state more attention during the primaries, and it will make it easier for voters to get involved in the nomination process.”
Having everyone "onboard" now does not, however, mean that this bill will advance (see Mississippi). But it does not mean that it will not either. Colorado could end up on the earliest allowed date, March 1, where the (presidential) caucuses likely would have been set for 2016, but there are regional partners with contests on March 8 (Idaho) and March 22 (Arizona) that could prove to be inviting calendar positions to maximize the significance of the Colorado primary.

But first thing's first: the legislative process.

1 The Arizona statute at the time set the presidential primary on the last Tuesday in February, but gave the governor the ability to move the date to an earlier position on the primary calendar. That power was utilized in both 2004 and 2008 and was used as a threat in 2012.

2 This is similar to the old Florida presidential primary law passed in 2013 and altered in 2015.

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