Gary Lindstrom: Somehow we have lost democracy
February 10, 2008
While many of you slept last Tuesday night, America continued to lose its democracy. Thousands of voters in Summit County were not able to vote. Hundreds of thousands of voters in Colorado were not able to vote, while millions of Americans all over this nation were not allowed to vote.
In Summit County there are 3,974 registered Republicans, 3,683 registered Democrats and 5,976 registered Unaffiliated. Of course the Unaffiliated could not vote at the caucus last Tuesday. They were disenfranchised by the two parties in control. The largest group of registered voters in Summit County was not allowed to vote.
The breakdown of the numbers by percentage is: 43 percent of all registered voters are unaffiliated, 29 percent of all registered voters are Republican and last but not least, 27 percent of all registered voters are Democrat. Nearly half of all registered voters could not participate in the caucuses.
Now before you start to yell too loudly, I do understand the purpose of the caucus is to determine delegates to the national party conventions. I also understand that everyone had the same opportunity to declare a party affiliation prior to Dec. 5, 2007, and participate in the caucus.
All I am saying is that we should have an open primary instead of a closed caucus. People should be allowed to come to the polls on primary day and declare a party the same way they can in August during the “real” primary.
A couple of years ago in Colorado, there were 1,066,956 registered Republicans, 896,861 registered Democrats and 999,552 registered Unaffiliated. They too were disenfranchised by the two parties in control. The second largest group of voters could not vote in the caucuses.
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We all remember Ross Perot of the Progressive Party, Ralph Nader of the Green Party and others who have made a futile attempt to run for president. My good friends in both parties would say that these third-party candidates are just spoilers and just take votes away from legitimate candidates. Bull Hockey.
And while I have your attention there is the matter of the real Colorado Primary in August. That is run the way it should be and the same as I have suggested for the presidential primary. But why is it in August? Why is it so far after the County Assemblies and the State Convention? It is almost like it is an afterthought.
Yes, if there are local contested races for county offices, then the August primary is where they would be decided. Some state offices would also be decided if the candidates did not get a high enough number of votes at the state convention. August primaries do work at times albeit late.
There are large states with primaries and small states with primaries. It would be just like a regular election. I am still concerned about the City that can’t shoot straight, Denver. They still can’t get an election right after a couple of terrible tries. I can still picture the Denver Police SWAT team counting ballots at the last election. I can still hear the Denver Election Commission Chairman telling the media that it will never happen again just as they said a few months earlier when the last election went bad too.
The solution is quite simple. We do away with the caucus system and replace it with a true primary like other forward thinking progressive states do. We have ballots and polling places. We allow unaffiliated voters to walk into a polling place and declare a party the day of the primary. If they want to change back to unaffiliated the next day then that is their right.
Parties should love this because it might result in more people staying registered with a party and they might become valuable advocates and workers for their issues.
I am speaking largely to the 43 percent of the Summit County active voters who were not allowed to participate in the caucus. Are you happy knowing that Summit County supported Romney and Obama? Would you have voted for either of them? How about the fact that Summit County supported Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate who quit a little more than a day after the caucus.
We are trying to run 21st century elections with a 19th century mentality.