Have you ever asked yourself why our Congress members are not more responsive to us citizens? We want them to work together to solve our problems. Instead, they just battle each other refusing any compromise. We ask them to address the high cost of healthcare, the growing budget deficit, border porousness and the widening of the political divide, to name a few. Nothing happens, they don’t even try. Why don’t voters get any respect from our elected officials?
The reason is because these officials are elected by their political party, not by voters. Consider that 85% of elections are decided in the primary, not the general election. Our politicians don’t see us as their bosses, it’s the 8-15% of party loyalists who show up in primary elections to whom Congress owes their allegiance. Further, the political parties arrange for the PAC raised funds to elect and reelect loyal party sycophants.
In 2018, record numbers of registered voters showed up for primary elections, yet that was just 19.6% of voters. Only 21 states have totally open primaries. The barriers to open primaries vary, but it is safe to say that millions of unaffiliated voters are either prohibited from voting altogether or must jump through hoops to vote.
The constitution says in Article 1 that “The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.” By practice, many state Democratic and Republican parties think they own the election process, and they strive to preclude non- party members from voting in primaries. Political parties are not ever mentioned in the Constitution and the cost of elections is paid with public funds, not party funds. So, elections belong to voters, not parties.
In Colorado, the voter rolls show voter registration at 1,070,029 Democrats, 955,143 Republicans and 1,652,442 unaffiliated voters. This means that almost half (45%) of Colorado voters are not members of either party, so having our candidates chosen only by party members makes little or no sense. Recognizing this in 2016, Colorado voters decided to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections.
Here’s how it works: Registered unaffiliated voters select which party primary they want or if there is no selection, both party primary ballots are mailed by the Secretary of State. The unaffiliated voter must select one ballot or the other, complete it and return it. The ballot not used is to be discarded. If a voter returns both, neither ballot will be counted, and the Secretary has much information at her disposal to ensure that ballots are not duplicated.
It would seem that a just system is in place, but in February, some Republicans, led by the same lawyer who advised the former president on how to overthrow the presidential election, filed a suit to cancel the right of unaffiliated voters to vote in a primary election. The suit alleges that their free speech and free association are violated. A bipartisan group including former governors Bill Owens and Bill Ritter, former Senator Hank Brown, Mayor Hancock, Chamber president Kelly Brough and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers all signed a brief to support the law and oppose the suit. How could allowing all citizens to select our political leaders be wrong?
Primary elections are vitally important. They are the final-four of politics. If we continue to allow 10% of each party to choose who will be on the ballot, we will keep having elected officials who ignore voters’ wishes. The primary elections are scheduled for June 28. Make sure you are part of it. I would never try to tell you for whom to vote, but I urge you to select the best candidates and give them your vote. It matters.
Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.