COLORADO – With new guidelines in place for dealing with the coronavirus that includes limiting gatherings of people to 10 or less, county political parties are scrambling to find creative ways to continue with scheduled assemblies that help determine who represents their parties in the upcoming primary election season.
Depending on how contested races are within a party appears to be driving the level of concern over relaxed regulations and internet security that could lead to possible voter fraud or manipulation.
House Bill 20-1359, that passed through the legislature in record time and was signed into law on March 16, created temporary legislation that allowed major political parties to relax the normal deadlines and structure of their County Assemblies, including method, timelines and quorum requirements.
County and District Assemblies are party-specific elections that advance local and state candidates within the party to the primary election in June. In addition, they ratify the delegate selections for the state assemblies to elect federal candidates to the primary.
The assemblies also put forth resolutions for party platforms. Both Democrats and Republicans were scheduled to hold their assemblies no later than April 1. State assemblies are scheduled for April 18.
In Weld County, where nearly 1,000 members of the Weld Republican Party, including candidates for office and their families, 416 delegates, 416 alternates, and others were scheduled to meet March 21 to cast a ballot in multiple contested races, party Chairman Will Sander said members were concerned restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak would only intensify in the future, so they felt urgency to act now. And because of the number of delegates and most of the races having multiple candidates, internet security and protecting the election integrity was also a concern. The party chose to continue with plans to hold it on the 21st; however, it will be conducted using a drive-thru format.
Although some candidates chose to go through the petition process, nearly all races that are open are contested within the party. House Districts 48 and 49 each have two candidates, House District 63 has three, while House District 50 is still vacant. Senate District 23 has two candidates. At the county level, Weld County Commissioner District 1 has two candidates, District 3 has three and At-Large has two.
“The credentialing process is the key part of why we wanted to make it personal with people driving up and handing in their ballots,” Sander said. “We figured if we tried to do it online there could be lots of questions about the integrity of the process. We wanted to make sure people could show their ID and verify they were the ones actually voting.”
Weld County candidates will be nominated, seconded and give speeches via a written nomination during a 24-hour period beginning at 12:01 a.m. March 20. The Weld County GOP will also link to video speeches for candidates from its website.
On March 20, the party will conduct a drive-thru balloting method in the parking lot of Northridge High School in Greeley, 100 71st Ave. Cars will first drive up to someone verifying their status and then they will drive through to employees of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office to get their ballot.
There will be no gathering of any groups on site, Sander said. Delegates will not leave their cars.
Some counties, such as Boulder and Jefferson, still have not posted updates or returned calls for comments concerning their county assemblies, both still have March 28 listed on their calendars with no changes.
Denver County chose to take the electronic route. Chairwoman Kristina Cook said their circumstances are much different than Weld. None of their seats are contested, so they just need to go through the routine of advancing them to the ballot and voting on resolutions.
“We don’t face the problems they do in Weld,” she said. “We only have to accomplish four things. Nominate the candidates we do have for the ballot, open nominations from the floor, ratify delegates and PCPs (precinct committee people) and vote on resolutions.”
Denver County Republicans also only have half the number of delegates as Weld at 222.
Cook said after spending all day yesterday confirming email addresses of its delegates and alternates, Denver will conduct its assembly in two phases.
The first round will start Saturday with an email sent out to ratify delegates and PCPs, introduce candidates and open floor for nominations.
The second round will occur Wednesday with another email that will include the actual ballot. That will need to be returned by March 27.
“We are still designing exactly how that will work, but we are confident the emails will reach the people they need to reach,” she said. “We will have people look up their voter ID number through the Secretary of State’s office and send that back with their ballot,” she said. “It’s about as good as we can do absent any digital encryption key.”
For more information on how a specific county is handling its assembly, visit its website or social media pages.