Most Coloradans remember Propositions 107 and 108 from 2016 – if not by name, then certainly by effect. Proposition 107 brought Presidential primary elections back to Colorado and Proposition 108 created “open primary” elections for every other race in the state. Until now, these measures were the most sweeping changes to Colorado elections along with 100% mail ballots. While open primaries can be a contentious topic of discussion, especially within the Republican party, a new proposition is likely to garner unanimous derision among the entire GOP as well as a lot of Democrats.
Proposition 117 will fundamentally change the way Colorado does elections, and not in a good way. In fact, this constitutional amendment will most likely be the end of your reason to vote. This proposition is funded and sponsored by the same guy who brought us Propositions 107 and 108: Kent Thiry, the so-called politically unaffiliated billionaire who always seems to fund projects that benefit Democrats. His latest abomination will totally disenfranchise you by way of three lines of effort:
1) Abolish primary candidate designating assemblies and go to petition only ballot access. For the sake of accuracy, there are two ways for major party candidates to access the primary ballot: assembly or petition. Proposition 117 would require that any and all candidates for office access the ballot by gathering signatures on petitions. For most state and county offices, this requires 1,000 signatures (statewide offices like Governor, US Senator, etc. have different signature requirements and involve gathering signatures across the state). To put this into perspective, in El Paso County during the 2022 cycle, candidates were paying anywhere between $15,000 to $25,000 to canvas companies (who hire petition circulators) for 1,000 valid signatures. This is why petitions are called “pay to play.”
117 will allow also any registered voter to sign candidate petitions which obviates the purpose of a party nominating their candidates. It removes the involvement of the parties in candidate designation process since the petitions are reviewed and approved by either the county clerk(s) or the Secretary of State. (The purpose of assembly is for the party/ies to designate candidates to represent the party in the primary race.)
This line of effort also forces Unaffiliated candidates and minor parties into the primary race. Currently, only major parties have primary races (Republican and Democrat). This change makes everyone a primary contestant irrespective of affiliation. Minor parties nominate their candidates to the general ballot by their own internal processes. Unaffiliated candidates gather petition signatures to gain access to the general ballot.
2) Jungle primaries. Since the line of effort above takes away assemblies and forces every candidate to circulate petitions, let’s put them all on the same primary ballot. There will only be one primary ballot with every candidate for office on it, irrespective of affiliation. Naturally, everyone will be able to vote in the primary. So, there will be one ballot with all candidates for each respective office listed. Everyone will get to vote on it, which means that Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated, and minor party voters get the same ballot and will vote for whomever they desire. And here’s the rub – The top four vote getters for each race (office) will advance to the general election ballot, irrespective of affiliation. This means that there could very likely be only candidates from one party on the general election ballot. Imagine that for any particular office (or every single office in the state) there are only Democrats on the general election ballot. This could spell the end of a party and it could most definitely be the harbinger of single party rule. But wait! It gets worse!
3) Ranked choice voting. The general election will be by ranked choice voting. This is where the voters will get to vote for more than one candidate for each race. They will need to identify, hierarchically, their preferences for candidates, i.e., who’s your favorite, who’s your next favorite, who’s your next favorite, and so on for however many choices you’re permitted. In locations where ranked choice voting has been implemented, the number of spoiled ballots has exceeded the number of “good” ballots because the instructions are so convoluted only GenZ voters seem to get it. The tabulations are also so fraught with problems and errors that, so far, over 80% of the places who tried this, abandoned it. Also, important to consider is the fact that it is nigh impossible to conduct a recount or an audit with ranked choice voting. You’ll just have to take Jena Griswold’s word as to who wins these elections.
Proposition 117 will be heard by the state Title Board next week. It will likely be approved as a ballot measure to amend the Colorado Constitution which means the proponents of this proposition will set out among the 35 state senate districts to collect signatures. They’ll need to gather signatures from at least 2% of the registered voters in each senate district for a total of 124,238 in order to appear on your November ballot. The guy behind this has nothing but money to spend on getting this through and Jena Griswold will be counting the number of signatures and validating the petitions to put it on the ballot.
Should this pass in November, it is likely the end of any sort of conservative voice in state and local governments. Tell your friends and neighbors to beware of this proposition and spread the word to not sign a petition for it. Friends don’t let friends support totalitarianism.
Todd Watkins is a contributor to www.ColoradoFreePress.com and the Vice Chairman of the El Paso County (CO) Republican Party. Todd retired from the US Border Patrol as an Assistant Chief on May 31, 2021 after 24 years of service.