Day after caucus chaos, leaders on both sides want primaries in Colorado

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DENVER -- Super Tuesday is over, but the discussion over whether Colorado did the right thing by conducting caucuses continues.

“I think it was absolute chaos,” said Michelle Letellier, a Democrat who caucused at Byers Middle School.

Like many locations around the state, the caucuses were supposed to start at 7 p.m. but did not get underway until after 8:30 p.m. because of large turnout.

Democrats had a larger caucus turnout on Super Tuesday than they did in 2008. Many people found themselves waiting in lines for hours just to get into the building. At some locations, Democrats were turned away or told to leave the area by fire marshals.

“(Tuesday) night is further proof that Colorado has probably outgrown the caucus system,” said Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.

Palacio confirmed the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties are pushing for state rules to change that a primary is conducted instead of a caucus. Republican officials confirmed the news late Wednesday.

Now the question is how will they proceed. Last year, a bill died in the General Assembly that would have switched the state’s system.

One group hoping to take the issue to voters is Let Colorado Vote. On Wednesday, it went before the State Title Board to get measures on the ballot that would allow independents to participate in primaries as well as the option for major political parties to conduct primaries instead of caucuses.

“Fourteen percent of active Democratic voters actually participated in the caucus last night; that’s not really engaging Colorado voters,” said Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Chamber of Commerce and supporter of the ballot initiative.

The State Title Board voted in favor of allowing the independent involvement question to go forward, but it voted against the primary initiative because of language concerns. Let Colorado Vote will consider whether to go back to the board in the next several weeks.

The cost to conduct primaries would be in the millions of dollars for taxpayers. Political parties must pick up the tab for caucuses.

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