For the first time ever, county clerks will mail primary ballots to unaffiliated voters, a measure that is causing consternation statewide and keeping Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams busy on the speakers’ circuit.
In December, he spoke to the League of Women Voters in La Plata County.
Last week, Williams addressed the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s legislative committee about the impacts of Proposition 108, which voters approved in 2016. He’ll be back at the chamber next week speaking to a larger group on the same topic.
On Tuesday, he spoke to the Cherry Creek Republican Women. When member Mary Wenke introduced Williams, she said he was going to talk about “this new primary we’re all so worried about.”
Previously, unaffiliated voters could participate in primary elections only by affiliating with either the Republican or Democratic party. Under Proposition 108, unaffiliated voters this year will automatically be mailed ballots for the June 26 primary.
“If you’re a Republican, you will see no difference. You will get the Republican ballot and that’s all you’re going to get. If you’re a Democrat, you will get the Democratic ballot and that’s all you’re going to get,” Williams said.
“If you are unaffiliated, you will get a Republican ballot and a Democratic ballot and you will be told to vote only one of them. If you vote both, all your votes are canceled out.”
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office, working with outside vendors, has polled unaffiliated voters and is working on a campaign to educate them on returning only one primary ballot.
The poll, Williams said, shows that 33 percent of unaffiliated voters said they planned to skip the primary election while 28 percent were undecided.
That should come as no surprise because the turnout among Republicans and Democrats during the primary election isn’t exactly stellar, Williams said.
Of those who planned to vote, 27 percent of the unaffiliated said they would go with the Democratic ballot, while 12 percent said they planned to vote the GOP ballot.
Arapahoe County Commissioner Kathleen Conti asked about “ticket splitters,” those voters who cross party lines in choosing candidates. They still can, in the general election in November, Williams said, but they can only mark up the Republican or the Democratic ballot for the primary.
As for minority party members, such as Libertarians or members of the Green Party, they will be mailed a primary ballot only if there is a contested primary in one of their races.
Williams also addressed Colorado’s record when it comes to registration and voting. Colorado has the highest number of registered voters per capita, and in the 2016 election it placed fourth nationwide in terms of turnout.
“In a risk-limiting audit, we scientifically and randomly choose ballots to review” to determine whether correctly interpreted the intent of the voter, the secretary said.
“Every single county passed the risk-limiting audit,” Williams said, to applause.
He also thanked Wenke, who offered the opening prayer, for remembering the three Colorado deputies recently killed in separate accidents. Williams, a former El Paso County commissioner and county clerk, on Saturday attended the funeral for slain deputy Micah Flick.
The two toughest jobs to have in county government, he said, are to work as a deputy or a social worker who has to decide whether to remove a child from a family.