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August 01, 2023 03:07 PM UTC

GOP Files Suit To Overturn Colorado's Semi-Open Primaries

  • by: Colorado Pols
John Eastman speaking at the January 6th, 2021 protest to overturn the 2020 presidential elections.

Bente Birkeland of Colorado Public Radio reports on the filing of the long-anticipated lawsuit in federal court from the Colorado Republican Party seeking to overturn Proposition 108, the initiative passed in 2016 allowing unaffiliated voters to take part in either party’s primary:

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Denver on Monday, alleges that Proposition 108, which voters approved in 2016, is unconstitutional. The initiative required major political parties to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections. It also included an opt-out clause for parties, if three-fourths of a party’s central committee agrees.

If the suit is successful in striking down Prop 108, it could mean unaffiliated voters would not be able to participate in any party primaries — Republican or Democratic…

Winning this suit would exclude unaffiliated voters from both major parties’ primaries.  But only one side is complaining about the effect of Proposition 108:

Democrats have not raised concerns about the state’s primary system. The head of the Colorado Democratic Party said the state Republican party is at odds with the voters.

“The MAGA extremists running the Colorado GOP don’t need to blame Prop 108 for their historic losses: they simply need to take a look in the mirror,” said Chair Shad Murib. “The Democratic Party is a big-tent, and we welcome participation in our democracy.” [Pols emphasis]

Although mainstream Colorado Democrats welcome the participation of unaffiliated voters in their primaries, closing the Republican primary would directly boost far-right candidates like the losers of the 2022 Republican primaries Ron Hanks, Greg Lopez, and Tina Peters–who not coincidentally are the political allies of far-right Colorado GOP chairman Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams. The legitimate moderating effect of unaffiliated voters on Republican primaries is why smart Republicans complain much less–but those are not the Republicans presently in control of the party.

And that’s where Williams’ strategy breaks down, because despite the delusion on the far right of the party that these candidates might have outperformed the “insider-anointed” winners of the primary, every observer with a brain on both sides knows that Hanks, Lopez, and Peters would have faced absolute Biblical destruction in the general election. The only people who aren’t aware of this are Williams and his small cadre of far-right zealots who have no clue what a majority of Colorado voters want.

And as we’ve discussed in this space before, there’s another big problem with this lawsuit: the lawyer.

Attorney John Eastman, with the Constitutional Counsel Group, is representing the Colorado GOP. He also represented Colorado GOP candidates in 2020 who sued to close the party primary, but the case was dismissed because they did not have legal standing. Eastman is currently facing possible disbarment proceedings in California over his role in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Although the Colorado Republican Party has been so underfunded that they haven’t been able to meet payroll expenses for a skeleton staff let alone organize for the next election, they have managed to raise somewhere north of $15,000 to pay embattled Trump coup plotter attorney and former CU visiting scholar John Eastman to represent the party in their lawsuit to overturn Proposition 108. Given the strong possibility that Eastman may shortly be disbarred in his home state of California for his role in the January 6th coup plot, any money paid to Eastman could turn out to be an extremely bad investment.

And finally, there’s this:

The lawsuit is part of a multi-prong effort to change how the Colorado GOP nominates its candidates.

This Saturday Republican party members are meeting to deliberate changing the rules to make it easier to opt-out of the primary, including counting an absent vote as an automatic “yes” vote for the opt-out.

You read this correctly: Williams wants to change the Republican Party’s bylaws so that members who don’t vote on the proposal are counted as “yes” votes. A system where absent committee members count as “no” votes makes a bit more sense, but non-votes counting as “yes” votes is just Banana Republic chicanery that seems intended to thwart the will of committee members who do show up.

The thing to keep in mind, as with so much else about the Colorado GOP’s motivations today, is that winning general elections is not the point of this strategy. This is about Williams and the far-right flank of the party shoring up their internal control, with no apparent thought about what comes after that. And given Williams’ obsession with purging the ideologically impure in his own party over taking on Democrats, it’s time to consider the possibility that he might truly not care.

Despite the depth of defeat Colorado Republicans have fallen to in recent years, they still have not hit bottom.


11 thoughts on “GOP Files Suit To Overturn Colorado’s Semi-Open Primaries

  1. Dave keeps digging that hole but you can’t blame him solely, his enablers are  plentiful.

    Unaffiliated voters make up over 40% of Colorado’s electorate, seems like an awfully large group to disenfranchise.

    1. BOTH Democratic and Republican Active Voter registrations are just over half of the total: 

      27.23% (D) + 24.08% (R) = 51.31%  

      Unaffiliated Active Voter registrations are now 46.88%.  That is about 4.5% short of the equivalent of the two major parties combined.  UAF voter share goes up about .15 to .20 per month, and gained 1.85% in the past year. R voter share goes down — about 1% in the past year. D voter share is down about 1.5% in the past year.  [I'll leave the mathematical trend analysis showing when the UAF outnumber D & R together as a brain teaser to anyone who cares.]


  2. What happened to their attempt to change the party's rules to say that no-shows on the central committee counted as "aye" votes?

  3. Yeah, I saw that Eastman is co-conspirator 2. I wonder how that will play into this Colorado case.

    And I don’t think I could sum up Eastman any better than to say he’s the Number 2 man, cause he sure is a pile of 💩

  4. If the Republicans/Trumpists want to have their own private primary, shouldn’t they have to pay for it?

    You know …with the $55,000 they have in their bank account.

    1. Absolutely!  Does no one remember when Colorado citizens voted for this back a few years ago, one of the main considerations was that WE pay for both parties' primary costs, so even unaffiliated voters should get to vote in one?

  5. “Winning this suit would exclude unaffiliated voters from both major parties’ primaries.”

    Whatever. I will just return to frequently switching my party affiliation. Online. Easy peasy.

    I am still going to vote in the most “interesting” primary.

  6. "Winning this suit would exclude unaffiliated voters from both major parties’ primaries." Or, the Democratic party uses the Republican playbook to announce that anybody who is registered as Unaffiliated is automatically counted as a Democrat for purposes of primary voting.

    1. "Winning this suit would exclude unaffiliated voters from both major parties’ primaries." 

      Not true. There is actually a US Supreme Court case from the 1980's that held that one party could close or open its primaries regardless of what the other did or what state mandated. I think it was called Connecticut Republican Party v. Tashjikian.

      Ironically, it was the state GOP that wanted to invite unaffiliated voters to participate in their primaries while the state Dems did not.

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