Work on Election Issue to Continue Post-Session

Denver -- The demise of two presidential primary bills late in the 2016 session didn't signal the end but the beginning of a statewide debate about the future look of Colorado elections, according to a group of Senate Republicans who have formed a working group to keep the dialogue going between sessions.

The Colorado Elections Study Group already has announced its first meeting, to be held Saturday, June 11, between 1:00 and 3:00 pm in the Capitol’s Old Supreme Court Chambers.

The group's founding members are Senators Laura Woods (R-Arvada), Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) and Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud).

Lundberg, the Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate, authored one of the two bills that fell along the wayside as the session drew to a close. "Rather than looking at these two failed bills as a defeat, I think voters scored a victory by getting us all thinking and talking about what the presidential primary might look like in 4 years," said Scott.

The group has a decidedly Republican look initially but founders urge the participation of all interested parties, including Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Unaffiliateds, etc.

"One positive thing we learned from this session, despite the failure of both primary bills, is that there's broad interest across Colorado in creating an election system that correctly balances the needs of a changing electorate, which spans the spectrum from major party stalwarts to independents," Woods said in announcing the group's formation and first meeting.

"Our experience with the primary bills showed that finding consensus on this topic isn’t easy, given the wide array of opinions and interests involved, but we think more progress can be made free from the deadline pressures that cut short this year's debate," added Grantham.

Please contact Sean Paige at 719-337-0355 with any questions.

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commented 2016-05-12 14:22:17 -0600 · Flag
Thanks to Senate Republicans for establishing an open venue for an important discussion. If I understand correctly it is intended to seek answers to questions about what works best for a variety of sometimes competing goals of our election system. A good beginning would be to discuss what those goals are and how they ought to be prioritized.

I have no doubt the discussion will broaden when new questions are raised by citizens. Media oversimplify this topic into a question of cost and who pays. Parties see choices about election design as a way to exert additional centralized influence. Legislators during the session don’t have time to listen to citizens or consider this crucial topic carefully.

Here is a beginning list of items that deserve attention:

1) Political parties should represent citizens locally as well as at the state and nationally. What role does the caucus play in defining parties locally? How can we preserve meaningful local definition of party membership while transferring the focus of broad attention to a statewide mail ballot election?

2) Unaffiliated citizens have chosen not to associate. We could hear their opinion on all the candidates via a straw poll taken during the primary. It is harmful to party definition to open primaries to all voters. It would be very constructive to see tabulated results of approval voting by unaffiliated voters about their choices to be on the general election ballot even if it is not binding on the party processes.

3) Colorado recounts are deceptively formulated by comparing a 1/2% victory margin to a winner vote count instead of the total number of relevant ballots. This means that with two candidates Colorado’s 1/2% formula twice less sensitive to a recount as most other 1/2% states. With four similarly popular candidates the recount is four times less sensitive as other 1/2 percent states. This means Colorado’s victory margin to avoid a recount would be as much as 4 times larger than what the 1/2% refers to in other states and therefore the recount far less likely. With more candidates it gets worse.

Also under votes make the recount less likely. Especially for primaries where multiple candidates are likely we must correct this defect in the recount formula. We also need to establish a minimum victory margin that triggers a recount in a small election.

Recounts are intended to correct for error rates in elections. They must trigger with larger victory margins than are affected by the likely error rate and they must be conducted more accurately than the original count.

4) An additional election has deleterious side effects. CORA currently stays access to ballots for about 60 days in the period during an election. 3 elections means 6 full months of no access in presidential years. County run municipal and special district and recall elections also subtract from the availability. With new UVS voting systems it is relatively easy to share scans and patterns from anonymous ballots. CORA must change to accommodate these conditions.

I hope that the Republican effort will not simply serve some pre-ordained agenda as some SOS organized committees with appointed membership have apparently done. Democrats have historically created strategy for their election reform efforts in private groups of limited “stakeholders.” Thanks to Republicans for taking the higher integrity more open route.

Harvie Branscomb
Democrat
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