Mar 12, 2024 - Politics

Colorado ballot measure wants "open primaries" and ranked-choice voting

Illustration of a "no" symbol being made in a ballot.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Colorado's presidential primary helped cement the rematch between President Biden and former President Trump this November. If that doesn't excite you, Nick Troiano has an idea that might.

State of play: In a new book, "The Primary Solution," the leader of Denver-based Unite America offers a different model for how we elect our leaders, one that replaces the party primary and caucus system with an "all-candidate primary" in which the top four move to the general election.

  • The winner is picked via ranked-choice voting.

The intrigue: It's more than an academic argument. The organization is promoting a potential ballot measure to implement the open primary system in Colorado for congressional, legislative and state elections.

  • The model would follow a similar one that voters in Alaska approved in 2020.

How it works: Troiano argues that primary elections are the greatest problem facing America's political system and the most solvable. The party-based elections reward partisanship and draw interest from the most ideological voters while excluding millions of others who can't participate or don't.

  • An open primary would allow voters to pick any candidate they want to advance, regardless of party affiliation.

What he's saying: "I would say it upends the system in a way that is good for voters," he said in a recent interview.

  • He added: "This is the most viable and impactful thing that we can do to foster a more functional government."

Between the lines: U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Denver) is offering praise for the idea, calling it a "compelling argument."

  • "The Primary Solution is the one book every American should read first this year," Hickenlooper added in a statement provided by the book's publisher.

Yes, but: The political parties are obviously opposed because it removes them from the driver's seat, and they are fighting to quash the open primary measure on legal grounds before it can qualify for the ballot.

What to watch: More than a dozen versions of the open primary ballot measure are pending at the state's Title Board, which must approve the language.

  • From there, organizers need to collect about 125,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.
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