Friday, June 26, 2009

Primaries: Good or Bad? And not in the way you think…

With the strong possibility of a competitive primary for governor, there are no shortages of opinion about whether or not primaries are good. Lost in this discussion though are the positives and negatives of the method of accessing the primary ballot the candidate uses. To discuss one subject, you must discuss the other; and since the latter hasn’t gotten as much attention lately, I figured we could discuss it.

Colorado is one of the view states that use the caucus system for candidates to access the primary ballot. Community meetings are held for each precinct, and committed supporters for each candidate work to get selected as delegates to county, congressional, state, etc. conventions in the hopes of casting ballots for their guy or gal. At these conventions, candidates are automatically placed on the primary ballot if they receive 30% or more of the vote. They can petition onto the ballot if they receive at least 10%, but below 30%. If you get less then 10%, sorry you’re done. Better luck next time.

If the caucus system doesn’t sound good to you-don’t despair! As a candidate, you can bypass the system and gather a certain number of signatures to access the ballot.

But is one system better?

Most states use the second method of gathering signatures. It does force a candidate to show support by being able to get a few hundred (or thousand) signatures to get onto a ballot, and the primary begins! However, some feel that this approach is impersonal and doesn’t help a candidate cultivate the grassroots organization needed to win an election.

Caucuses, its supporters would say, allows activists greater access to candidates (as the candidates will know ahead of time who the delegates will be), and helps the grassroots organization be organized. Some also believe that the caucus system allows more candidates to campaign for an office as a caucus system is relatively inexpensive. However, those who do not support the system believe that the nomination is or can be decided by the exact same people each time, or “insiders”-the ones who always seem to attend the caucuses and each nominating convention.

Where do you stand? Do you support one system over the other? Will your potential support for a candidate be affected if they choose to access the ballot through another avenue?


  1. Certainly there are pros and cons for each method. But in my opinion, this misses the boat. The problems that I have seen in my 18 years in COS is that we have so many conservative candidates that they tend to cannibalize each other so that the percentage vote-winner is not always the best candidate. It is an eventuality that nobody garners a 50% majority. In that situation, one solution is to require a run-off between the top two vote-getters.

  2. I like the caucus system in that it provides one more level of scrutiny of the candidates. If one can't garner the support of the party activists, this makes a strong statement to the public.

    But I must say, I love Dr. Prentice's idea of a run off in a multiple candidate race.

  3. Great point Dr, that's a great idea!