Guest column: The case for the political party caucus process


While it seems hard to accept, the political season is starting already. Both major county parties, the Republican and the Democratic parties, will be holding their precinct caucuses on March 6, and their county assemblies on March 17.

This is a key step in designating local candidates to the primary and/or general election ballot this year. In spite of the changes made by Amendments 107 and 108 last year, allowing unaffiliated voters the opportunity to vote in either the Republican or Democratic Primaries, the party caucus and assembly process is still the principle manner in which our local county and state level candidates are placed on the ballots. Only registered Democrats or Republicans can participate in the caucus’ and assemblies.

The process is that on March 6, individuals of each party gather in the 27 precincts within Garfield County, at five or six different community locations. At this time, they will elect precinct committee persons and select individuals to attend the county assemblies on March 17, either at Morgridge Commons for the Republicans or the New Castle Library for the Democrats.

At the Republican Assembly, delegates elected by the 27 precincts will vote on designating candidates to the primary ballot for each of the county level offices up for election this year. This year, the county commissioner for District 1, Tom Jankovsky, as well as the Sheriff, Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor, Coroner, and Surveyor offices are all up for election.

A candidate must receive at least 30 percent of the votes of the delegates at the assembly to be placed in the Republican primary. If they receive less than 30 percent but more than at least 10 percent, they may choose to petition on to the ballot by garnering the required number of eligible signatures. This number varies by the office, and is equal to 20 percent of the votes cast in the most recent primary or general election for that office.

Additionally, at the county assemblies, delegates are elected to attend the state conventions in April, where candidates are designated to the primary ballot for the higher level state offices (Governor, Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General), state legislature, and Congressional offices.

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Again, candidates may choose to petition on to the ballot by securing a sufficient number of signatures in each Congressional District, or may go the route of being designated to the ballot by securing at least 30 percent of the vote at the state convention. It is my understanding that at least two Republican gubernatorial candidates plan to petition on to the primary ballot, as well as candidates for other statewide offices.

Once candidates have been designated to the ballot by the party, the Secretary of State and the county clerks in the 64 counties take over to conduct the primaries.

The county clerks will certify the signatures for any petition candidates for the local level offices and the Secretary of State will certify the signatures for state level and Congressional level offices, notifying the county clerks of the certified candidates for each office.

It is the responsibility of the county clerk’s office to then conduct the primary election. This entails printing and mailing the ballots for each of the “major” parties. This, as are all elections in Colorado now, is a “mail-in ballot.” All registered Democrats and Republicans will receive a primary ballot for their party. All voters who are registered as “unaffiliated,” which represents approximately 40 percent of Garfield County, will receive both a Republican and a Democratic ballot in the mail.

They are only allowed to complete and return one of those ballots. Alternatively, unaffiliated voters may go to http://www.govotecolorado.com and indicate a preference for a primary ballot. This will not change the voter’s party affiliation and is only valid for the upcoming election. Primary Election Day is on Tuesday, June 26, and the ballots will be mailed approximately three weeks in advance of that date.

Everyone is encouraged to get involved in the process from the precinct caucus on up. This is your best way to have your voice heard. Republicans may verify their party affiliation, caucus location and register in advance for the Precinct Caucus by going to caucus.cologop.org/

Dave Merritt is a Garfield County Republican Party Central Committee member and former party chairman.

Garfield County political party caucus locations

Democratic Party

Precincts 1-4: Carbondale Middle School

Precincts 5-12: Glenwood Springs Library

Precincts 13-15: New Castle Community Center

Precincts 16-18: Silt Library

Precincts 19-23: Rifle Library

Precincts 24-27: Parachute Library

Republican Party

Precincts 1-4: Roaring Fork High School (Carbondale)

Precincts 5-12: Glenwood Springs Community Center

Precincts 13-15: Coal Ridge High School

Precincts 16-18: Coal Ridge High School

Precincts 19-23: Garfield County Fairgrounds

Precincts 24-27: Grand Valley Recreation Center

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