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Nicolais: Thanks to a recent law change, I’ll be voting in my first Democratic primary this month

Between the ability for unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in major party primaries and the all-mail ballot, Coloradans like me will be more important than ever in the upcoming election

For the first time in my life, I will be voting in a Democratic primary later this month.

While the national pundits and prognosticators will be focused on the Iowa caucuses next Tuesday and the New Hampshire primary a week later, sandwiched between the two, Colorado counties will begin mailing out ballots on Monday, Feb. 10.

That means many Coloradans, including me, may be casting our ballots just as the presidential field is winnowing and ahead of “early voting” states like South Carolina and Nevada.

Mario Nicolais

While the votes won’t be tabulated until “Super Tuesday” on March 3, it does mean candidates will be able to lock in votes here well before other states.

Maybe that is why Michael Bloomberg has been omnipresent during every commercial break?

My choice to vote in the Democratic primary isn’t some “operation chaos” ploy to nominate the weakest Democratic nominee or otherwise game the electoral process. I will legitimately be voting for the candidate I believe will be the best person to become president on Jan. 20, 2021.

I registered as an unaffiliated voter on Jan. 19, 2017, the day before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. An avowed Never-Trumper, I didn’t want to be linked with Trump in any way, even via party affiliation. It’s a decision I have never regretted.

Until 2016, I would have been required to choose between registering with the Democratic Party, a minor party or forgo participation in the primary election altogether. None of those choices appealed to me.

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To begin, I consider myself a classical conservative with socially centrist policy positions. The leftward drift of the Democratic Party simply make it nearly as hostile to my ideologies as Trumpism.

Joining a minor party – likely the Libertarian Party in my particular case – while providing a psychological salve would have tied me to party that has never come close to winning a general election in Colorado (though, I did vote for its presidential standard bearer, Gary Johnson, in 2016).

I never considered not voting in a primary. In fact, I’ve long believed voting in primaries is usually more important than voting in the general election. Not only do primaries focus more on ideological direction rather than partisan tribalism, but because so few people participate in primaries every vote becomes increasingly important.

Arguably that is true in Colorado this year. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely win Colorado’s nine electoral votes in November. Recent turnout projections suggest that the blue wave that swept over Colorado in 2018 will become a tsunami swamping Trump (and Sen. Cory Gardner) in 2020.

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Luckily, I didn’t need to make that choice. Thanks to passage of Proposition 108 in 2016, unaffiliated voters may vote in the primary election for major parties. In Colorado, that means either the Democratic or Republican primary.

In 2018, I exercised my newfound right to vote in the Republican primary. In 2020 it will be the Democratic primary; there just isn’t much contest on the Republican side, at the presidential, Senate or state level in my district. 

That freedom likely led to a recent spike among people like me switching to an unaffiliated status. For those seeking that freedom, you have until Monday to change your registration in order to qualify for the 2020 presidential primary.

Over the next several weeks, I’m sure my mailbox will be bombarded (yay!), airwaves will be saturated and I’ll regularly receive “potential spam” phone calls. That’s a good sign for Colorado unaffiliated voters who will be able finally to flex their muscle in presidential primaries.

Even better, the all mail-in ballot means our votes come with a premium not enjoyed by other states still heavily reliant on same-day voting. While Colorado may become a flyover state in November, it will be a prize during February.

Just over a month from now, we should have a good idea who will face off against Trump in the fall. And this year, both Colorado and I will have had a say in who it will be. 


Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq


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