Don’t vote to change rules for primaries

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By Greg Romberg

Upon resigning from the Friars Club, Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” That reasoning seems to be consistent with two ballot measures before us this fall concerning primary elections.

One proposal replaces Colorado’s caucus system to select delegates to presidential nominating conventions with a primary. It contains a provision that allows unaffiliated voters to vote in the primary election without affiliating with the party in whose primary they wish to participate. Similarly, another separate initiative allows unaffiliated voters the same privilege in primary elections in which we select candidates for Congress and state and county offices.

Proponents of the proposals argue that because taxpayer money is used to conduct these elections and because unaffiliated voters make up a large percentage of registered voters in Colorado, it’s only right and fair that unaffiliated voters should be allowed to vote in primary elections.

I think they are wrong.

In our two-party system of government, parties are responsible to nominate candidates for office. If someone is not willing to be a member of a political party, why in the world should that person be able to participate in selecting that party’s nominees? Current law makes it very easy for anyone to participate in any primary election. Voters can change their affiliations whenever they want. It’s even possible to affiliate just long enough to cast a ballot.

Can nominees really be expected to represent the values and philosophies of political parties if people who aren’t even willing to affiliate as members of those parties can select them?

I do believe that it is time for us to shift back to a presidential primary. Caucus participation makes it harder for people to participate and can be overwhelmed when even a small percentage of voters choose to attend, but the aspect of this proposal that allows unaffiliated voters to vote without affiliating will keep me from supporting it.

If there were provisions in Colorado law that made it impossible, or even inconvenient, for people who have not affiliated with a political party in the past to participate in primary elections prospectively, an argument that unaffiliated voters are disenfranchised by the requirement to affiliate with a party to participate in its primary elections could be made. But that is simply not the case. In Colorado, people can choose to affiliate just long enough to cast a ballot. If you are not willing to make even that temporary connection, you have no business helping to select a party’s nominees.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.