Wednesday, June 10, 2015

March 1 a Go for Colorado Democratic Caucuses in 2016

A few weeks ago, the Colorado Democratic Party released a draft of its 2016 delegate selection plan.1 Following the failed attempt at the close of the 2015 state legislative session to switch from a caucus/convention system to a more open primary system, both parties were essentially locked into caucuses and Colorado Democrats have selected March 1 for the date on which to hold their "first determining step" caucuses.

Parties in Colorado have two possible dates on which they can conduct precinct caucuses (with a presidential preference vote): the first Tuesday in February or the first Tuesday in March. The former is an option added for the 2008 cycle to allow the state parties the latitude to opt into a date that would be early enough to at the very least keep the Colorado caucuses in line with the logjam of states holding contests on February 5, Super Tuesday in 2008. As 2012 approached, the February option remained in state law, but the March option was pushed up a couple of weeks from the third to first Tuesday in March.

That meant that the second, later option was in line with the earliest date allowed on the informally coordinated calendar structure the national parties had devised for the 2012 cycle; the first Tuesday in March. It also meant that the caucuses date choice allowed by Colorado law was basically an optionless option. The national party delegate selection rules in 2012 prohibited February contests (with some loopholes and nose-thumbing states). Colorado Democrats settled on the March option in 2011 and have done so again in 2015 for the 2016 presidential election cycle.

Though non-binding caucuses technically allowed Colorado Republicans to hold February 7 caucuses in 2012 without penalty from the Republican National Committee, the new 2016 rules requiring the binding of delegates (based on the earliest, statewide vote) limits Republicans in the Centennial state in a way they were not in 2011. It also means that Colorado Republicans would be vulnerable to the more severe penalties the RNC introduced for 2016. Still, the option exists, but it is a decision for another time.

For now, Colorado Democrats are headed for March 1 caucuses. That places Colorado caucusgoers behind only Nevadans on the calendar in western state voting.

1 The above link is to the plan from the Colorado Democratic Party site. FHQ will also keep a version of the plan here.

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