Open Primary vs Party Caucus

Colorado voters passed an “open primary” law on the 2016 ballot, but there’s been some confusion about what all is changing. With competitive primaries for Governor and many other statewide and local offices this year, I thought I’d share some information to make sure all of you know how to participate.

Open Primaries
In Colorado, our primary elections are used to determine the major party nominees for the general election ballot. In 2018, our primary election is on Tuesday, June 26th and our general election is on Tuesday, November 6th.

With the passage of Proposition 108 in November 2016, there’s a new way for unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary elections. Previously, they could choose to affiliate with either the Democratic or Republican party up until 6:59pm on the day of the primary election, cast their ballot, and then go back to being unaffiliated the next day.

Now, unaffiliated voters do not need to change their party. Instead, they will receive two mail ballots – one with the Democratic candidates and one with the Republican candidates. They will be able to choose one ballot to complete and return.

Voters also passed Proposition 107 in 2016 which restored Colorado’s presidential primary. Learn more about both propositions in the 2016 Blue Book.

Party Caucuses & Assemblies
While the process for selecting nominees changed, the process for getting a candidate onto the primary ballot did not. Candidates must either collect petition signatures or go through a party caucus and be nominated at a party assembly.

This year’s Democratic and Republican Party Precinct Caucuses are on Tuesday, March 6th at 7:00pm. The caucuses are organized and paid for by the parties themselves and still rely on paper voter lists printed in advance, and that means that voters must be affiliated with a major party in advance if they want to participate. Same day registration/ affiliation for a caucus would require computers at every caucus site connected to the state voter database, and that’s just too expensive for the parties to handle.

If you’re already a registered voter, you will need to make sure your party affiliation is up to date by January 8th (60 days before caucus). If you’re registering in Colorado for the first time, you have a little more time and must register and affiliate by February 5th. Either way, you must be a resident of your precinct by February 5th.

If you’ve never attended caucus before, I highly recommend it. I’ll admit it’s more of a commitment than simply casting a ballot – you’ll need to dedicate the entire evening – but it’s a great way to meet people in your precinct and help determine which candidates go on to appear on the primary ballots in June.

Questions? Email me at

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