DENVER — At the same time multi-millionaire activist Kent Thiry is working to bring open primaries and ranked-choice voting to the state via a ballot initiative, a new political party that is also pushing the controversial voting method is working to establish itself in Colorado.
Just a year ago, the Colorado Forward Party announced its intent to become a minor party in Colorado. According to its website, the party’s national basic principles are “grace and tolerance,” “all are welcome — left, right or center,” and “work together, not against.”
The Colorado chapter would add “get stuff done,” “pragmatic compromise,” and “data-driven dialogue,” to its principles, along with supporting “election reform initiatives state-wide, including ranked-choice voting.”
Currently, the group is circulating petitions to make its presence in Colorado official. “Becoming a minor party in Colorado is the first step to fielding our own Forward Party candidates in state and local elections,” the party’s website reads. “We are actively collecting signatures all over Colorado to achieve this goal and will submit 15,000 signatures of registered Colorado voters who support more choice at the ballot by the end of 2023.”
Sources told Complete Colorado they have been approached by petition circulators at Denver-area locations as recently as late November.
Organizers need to submit 10,000 valid signatures from Colorado voters by Jan. 12, along with an application and bylaws, to the secretary of state’s office.
According to Jack Todd, communications director for Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, there is nothing on file for the party yet, as everything is turned in at once, and then Griswold’s office will determine if everything is in place for Colorado Forward to become an official third party. The designation would allow candidates on the 2024 ballot under that party.
Until that time, and until the Secretary of State’s office approves the group’s status as a minor party, they do not have to follow the same reporting rules and regulations as issue committees or candidates when it comes to filing expense reports or paying signature gatherers, among other things.
Push for ranked-choice voting
Colorado Forward’s advocacy for ranked-choice voting aligns conveniently with Kent Thiry’s proposed citizen-initiated ballot measure to do away with the caucus and assembly process in Colorado and adopt ranked-choice voting.
“The current election system is tilted in favor of the increasingly dysfunctional two-party system. We want to provide voters with more choices in our elections, promote civil discourse, and ensure everyone’s vote counts,” the Colorado Forward Party website reads. “Non-partisan (Open) primaries give voters the opportunity to choose amongst a field of candidates from different parties rather than being forced into a single-party primary.”
While it’s not clear if Thiry is involved with the Colorado Forward minor party effort, Michael Muller, the party’s treasurer, worked at DaVita, a healthcare company providing kidney care for patients suffering from chronic kidney failure or end-stage renal disease, where Thiry was previously chief executive officer.
Over the past 12 years, Thiry, who made headlines in 2022 when he was acquitted of three counts of conspiracy under the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act, has put nearly $6 million of his own money into Colorado ballot measures, the Denver Post reports. Everything he has supported has won, including Amendment B, which repealed the Gallagher Amendment and put Colorado in the current, ever-rising property tax problem.
And, one of Colorado Forward’s executive committee members, John Lembke, is also on the board of directors for Ranked Choice Voting for Colorado, according to his LinkedIn page.
Complete Colorado will continue to follow the progress of the Colorado Forward Party.
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