Colorado has historically chosen candidates for public office, including president, during caucus meetings. But that all changed, as many voters likely remember, in 2016 when the state's voters …
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Colorado has historically chosen candidates for public office, including president, during caucus meetings. But that all changed, as many voters likely remember, in 2016 when the state's voters decided to institute a primary process and make caucuses history. Right?
Well, not exactly. It turns out that while the state's voters did decide to move to a primary system for choosing presidential candidates, the state maintains party caucuses as the first step in selecting the candidates that will be on the ballot for all county, district and state level races.
Anyone who is a registered Republican or Democrat (the deadline to do so was Feb. 14) is eligible to participate in their party's precinct caucus, where party members will gather at local precincts to select delegates that will choose candidates for the primary ballots for state and local offices.
What you need to know
Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder George Stern says the first thing to understand is that the caucuses, unlike elections, are run entirely by the parties.
“We have no oversight whatsoever of caucuses, it is strictly the political parties,” Stern said.
But while the Clerk and Recorder does not control the process, Stern says his office did make one contribution.
“The only involvement we have is we do offer a list of registered voters but simply give those lists to the parties and they are the ones determining who is showing up to caucus and able to caucus,” he said.
To participate in the caucus, those who are registered with a specific party (party affiliation can be verified at the secretary of state's website: www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/
Affiliated voters can visit their party's county website to find their precinct location. The Jefferson County Republicans website is JeffcoRepublicans.com while Democrats can visit JeffcoDems.com.
Jeffco Republicans Chair Denise Mund adds that it is important voters check their precinct caucus site ahead of time even if they have caucused in the past because caucus sites have changed over time. Caucusers are then recommended to show up at their caucus location on March 7 about half an hour before the start of their caucus (9 a.m. for Republicans and 2 p.m. for Democrats).
What happens at the caucus
One of the primary activities that take place at the caucus is the selection of delegates to the assemblies where party candidates will be chosen. Those assemblies are where the candidates who will appear on primary ballots will be chosen. The Primary Election will take place on June 30, with mail ballots being sent out ahead of time. Those primary ballot results will choose each party's final candidate for every non-presidential race for this year. But that's far from the only activity that will take place at the caucus.
“Another thing that happens that is very important is we talk about and vote on resolutions and changes to the party platform,” said Jeffco Dems 1st Vice Chair Scott Merrifield. “So it's our opportunity to come in and shape what the party in Colorado is going to look like for the next couple of years.”
This year's Democratic caucuses will also feature a preference poll where caucus goers will have the chance to align themselves with their preferred Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Candidates will need to get 15 percent of the support at a caucus in order to get county delegates (caucus goers can choose a different candidate to support if their candidate does not get at least 15 percent after the first preference poll count.Democratic candidates will need at least 30 percent support at the state assembly to get on the primary ballot. However, candidates can also try for the primary ballot through a petition that requires them to gather 1,500 signatures from each of the state's seven congressional districts. Candidates that attempt to reach the ballot using both methods must get 100 percent at the state assembly even if they get all the signatures they need.
Republicans will not hold a poll for U.S. senate this year. The presumptive Republican candidate is incumbent senator Cory Gardner.
Lists of all candidates for all open offices, including U.S. Senate, are available on each party's county website.
What to expect this year
Although much of the media attention is going to this year's primaries, leaders in both parties said they are hopeful for high turnout at the caucuses.
“I truly think we are going to have a big caucus this year,” said Merrifield. “I think people really want to be involved and there is a lot of real important issues. I encourage everybody who wants to have a voice in the shape of our party and who our candidates are going to be to be at caucus and to come and help us make that happen.”
That's also the case for the Republicans, Mund said, even if she doesn't expect the same kind of turnout there was in the days when the primaries included a presidential straw poll.
“I don't expect that kind of momentum but there is definitely a lot of people that are supporting the president and his pro-business and other policies they like so there is a momentum we have not seen in the past,” she said.
How to caucus March 7
Visit the Secretary of State's website to confirm your voter registration. Voters must be affiliated with a party to participate. The affiliation deadline was Feb. 14.
Visit the county website of your party to find your caucus location.
Show up at your caucus location about half an hour before it starts to get signed in. The Republican caucuses start at 9 a.m. while the Democratic caucuses start at 2 p.m.
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