Local participation in election process crucial

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by Marissa Lorenz
On Tuesday, Colorado held its first Presidential Primary vote in 20 years. The vote was primarily done by mail-in ballot. Wednesday’s preliminary results showed a 92.4% vote for Donald Trump’s nomination to the Republican party ticket and an apparent 36.3% vote for Bernie Sanders, ahead of Joe Biden (24.4%), Michael Bloomberg (19.4%) and Elizabeth Warren (17.6%).

In Grand County, 5,460 votes had been counted, representing 43.6% of the 12,199 registered voters. In line with State numbers, 90.7% of ballots returned for the Republican primary (2,688 total) were cast for Trump. 36.9% of the 2,276 Democaratic ballots returned were in favor of Sanders, with 23.9% for Biden, 20.7% for Bloomberg, and 15.5% for Warren.

Grand County Clerk and Election Official Sara Rosene explains that, in 2000, Grand County had 9 precincts and 7,271 active voters required to show up to designated polling locations. Only 704 votes were cast, including 214 absentee ballots, from 574 registered Republicans and 129 registered Democrats. Unaffiliated voters were not able to participate in that primary or, indeed, any primary until 2016. She notes the differences in 2020, where 10,769 ballots were mailed. The Republican ballot had six candidates and the Democratic ballot had 17 candidate selections. She anticipates that nearly 50% of active registered voters participated in the 2020 Presidential Primary, compared to less than 10% in 2000.

Unaffiliated voters received both ballots, but could only cast one valid vote. “Unfortunately,” she says” a number of voters returned both ballots. And of those, a high number voted both. Voting both ballots invalidates both ballots and neither is counted.”

Rosene also explains that Counties could not legally report votes for candidates who had suspended their campaigns prior to the election but who remained on the ballot. She notes that, as of 7:00 PM on election night, four of the 17 Democratic candidates had withdrawn in Colorado. Thus reported results will not include votes cast for Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, and John K. Delaney.

Votes will determine how many State delegate votes go toward deciding Party candidates for the National election. The Party candidates will then receive official Party endorsement and funding, leading up to the general election.

Caucus participation critical

But for those who think that there is nothing more to do until the general election, leaders of the County’s Republican and Democratic parties would disagree. “A lot of people, having voted in the presidential primary, may feel that their input is unnecessary before November,” says Carl Wood, Grand County Republican Party Chair. “But there’s a lot at stake yet.” He points out that there are a number of other races that are of real significance to local voters. “Other 2020 races
that will be decided, in part by Grand County voters, are seats for the US Senate, Congressional District 2, district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, Colorado House District 13, Colorado Senate District 8, and two Grand County Commissioners positions in Districts 1 and 2.”

And Grand County Democratic Party Chair Susan Newcomer agrees. “Local politics are of critical importance. And things such as ‘who are our County Commissioners?’ makes a lot of difference now.”

Both chairs indicate that they would like voters to better understand the upcoming caucus process. Traditionally, Colorado caucuses in order to determine who will have Party backing for other elections, such as local, state, and congressional selections. Woods explains that attendees to the precinct caucus will elect delegates to attend the County Assembly on March 21. At County Assembly, delegates will be chosen to attend the assembly for US Senate District 2 on April 4 and the State Convention on April 18. Those assemblies play an important role in decisions about who will appear with the Parties’ names on the State primary election in June.

“Caucus is important,” Wood encourages, “because it really is a grassroots effort to allow citizens
a role in selecting their candidates. In Colorado, the Parties are legally required to host the caucuses in order to permit that input.”

Newcomer expands on the purpose of caucus by explaining that it is also a venue for voters to discuss platform issues and what they would like to see as a focus of their party’s political ambition. “It provides a way for people to gather and discuss issues in person, especially in rural states where there are great distances between people and few opportunities to exchange ideas.” She explains that the current Party Platform document is 24 pages long, but that Grand County Democrats have also identified other areas of concern, such as abuse of power in government, health care, and environmental monitoring.

While normally held on the first Tuesday of March, this year’s precinct caucuses will take place this Saturday, the 7th. In West Grand, the 4th and 5th precinct caucus will be held at the CSU Extension Building in Kremmling for the Republican party and at the Kremmling Library for the Democratic Party. If you are unsure of your precinct or where your Party will caucus, visit co.grand.co.us/147/elections and link to the precinct map.

“Unfortunately, the precinct caucus is always poorly attended,” says Woods. “It is too bad because it doesn’t take much time and it is what allows citizens a choice in their candidate election.” Both chairs explain that, while a candidate may put forth their name for discussion at caucus, Colorado now permits interested candidates to gather signatures for inclusion on the ballot, so that there are now two methods for achieving that goal.

And both chairs are following elections of note during this cycle. Newcomer says that she hopes for the Democratic Party to come out of the County Assembly with full support for Shanna Ganne as Grand County Commissioner for District 2 and consensus support for a Democratic candidate for the 14th judicial district, including Grand, Routt, and Moffatt counties. She is also watching the
US Senate election and that for CO House District 13, currently held by KC Becker of Boulder County.

Woods is particularly interested in the CO Senate District 8 election for the seat once held by Grand County local Randy Baumgardner and now filled by appointee Bob Rankin. “There is another Republican candidate from Breckenridge, Debra Irvine. It should be an interesting race with the ballot nominee being named at the Senate District Assembly in Craig on April 11. Often you’re choosing between candidates with very similar views, but that’s not the case here. Voters will have a clear choice to make about who will represent them the best.”

Woods also reminds voters that anyone is welcome at the precinct caucus but that they must be a registered voter with that Party to have a vote in decision-making. For more information about Saturday’s caucuses, including locations, platform issues, and potential candidates, go to grandcountygop. com for the local Republican party and grandcountydems.org for the local Democratic party. And get out

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