Clerks Corner: Understanding the caucus process
February 1, 2018
Campaign season is officially underway. Don't be surprised if candidates begin contacting you and ask you to participate in a caucus. What is a caucus, you may ask? The first time I heard the word, I thought it sounded like something particularly nasty, but it's actually an exclusive party. A caucus is a group of supporters for a particular political party who get to discuss and make plans.
The main function of a political party is to nominate partisan candidates to the ballot and help those candidates get elected to office. In Colorado, there are two ways for partisan candidates to gain access to the primary election ballot and that is either "Designation by the Assembly" or "Designation by Petition."
A candidate seeking the party's designation will begin at the caucus. The precinct caucus is simply a neighborhood gathering for registered voters who live within the precinct boundaries and who are members of either the Democrat or Republican Party. In Colorado, only voters affiliated with a party can participate in a caucus. At this meeting, two precinct leaders are selected, and participants then elect delegates to the County Assembly.
At the assembly, delegates cast votes for each of the candidates. The candidate must receive at least 30 percent of the votes cast by the assembly to receive the nomination. If successful, the candidate's name is placed on the ballot, as he or she has been designated by the assembly.
If a candidate chooses to forego the traditional party process, he or she has the option to petition to the ballot. In this process, the candidate must circulate a petition among eligible, registered voters. The petition requires enough signatures to be equivalent to 20 percent of the votes cast in the last primary election for a given political party's candidate who sought the same office. The petition is then verified by the election office. If it is sufficient, the candidate's petition is certified, and his or her name is placed on the ballot, having been designated by petition.
Following are answers to some frequently asked questions.
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• Who can vote in a precinct caucus? To vote in any precinct caucus of a political party, a voter must be a resident of the precinct for at least 30 days, registered to vote no later than 29 days before the caucus and affiliated with the party holding the caucus for at least two months before the caucus.
• Where can I get information about my precinct caucus? Contact your local political party leaders for information about your precinct caucus. For the Republican Party, contact Corrie Ponikvar at 970-629-9966. For the Democratic Party, contact Jo Ann Baxter at 970-824-3049.
• When are precinct caucuses held? Precinct caucuses are held on the first Tuesday in March. This year, the caucus is at 7 p.m. March 6.
• Where are precinct caucuses located? The county central committee of each political party is responsible for determining the time and location of the caucus. Precinct caucuses are generally held in public buildings and schools. Contact your party leaders.
• What happens at a precinct caucus? Caucus attendees elect officers who will be responsible for organizing political activities within the precinct. Caucus attendees also elect delegates and alternates to represent the precinct at the political party's county assembly.
• When are county assemblies, district assemblies and state assemblies held? The county assembly will be held no later than 25 days after precinct caucuses. The date of the district assembly is determined by the chairperson of the district committee and happens after the county assemblies. The state assembly follows both the district and county assemblies and will be held no later than 73 days before the June primary election.
• How do I verify my voter information? Coloradans can register to vote or change their registration information, including their party affiliation, through a link on the Colorado Secretary of State's website govotecolorado.com. People can also register in person, designate a party affiliation or change a party affiliation at their county clerk’s offices.
Do you have questions or comments? Contact me, Lila Herod, at 970-824-9118 or email me at email@example.com. Until next month … Cheers!
Lila Herod is Moffat County clerk and recorder.