This year’s party primaries in Colorado, scheduled for Tuesday, June 26, will be historic. Why? To understand, here’s a quick primary primer.

The purpose of a party primary is to pick, from a passel of potential politicos (er, candidates—sorry, I got carried away with the alliteration), the one candidate to run as the party’s candidate in the November election—which will be Nov. 6.

Big Change for Unaffiliated Voters

Before this year, only registered voters affiliated as members of the major parties could vote in their party’s primary election. This year, because we passed Proposition 108 in 2016, unaffiliated voters will also be able to vote in a party primary.

But here’s the important thing: Unaffiliated voters must choose the party’s primary they want to vote in and ONLY vote in that primary.

Because we have all mail-in ballots in Colorado, Democratic voters will be mailed the Democratic Primary ballot, and Republican voters will be mailed the Republican Primary ballot. Unaffiliated voters will be mailed both ballots if they have not notified the state of their choice. Unaffiliated voters then pick just one of the two. If an unaffiliated voter tries to vote in both primaries, their ballots will be discarded.

A primary is contested if more than one name appears on a party’s ballot. Offices with just one candidate running are called uncontested races. This year, most every race is contested. In a contested race, there may be as few as two or as many as dozen or so candidates running to secure the party’s nomination. The usual number is somewhere between two and six.

Just One Federal Race This Year

This year’s election will feature just one federal race – the U.S. House of Representatives. Each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts will elect a Representative in November. June’s primary will narrow down the field to just one Republican and one Democratic candidate for each race.

This year, six of Colorado’s incumbents (those already holding office) are seeking re-election. The only open congressional race (a race where there is no incumbent) is the Second District, which encompasses Fort Collins, Loveland, and Boulder. The current representative from this district is Jared Polis, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

The Race for Governor

Speaking of governor, this will be the most prominent race at the state level. We have a gaggle of gubernatorial go-getters. (Sorry— that alliteration thing again.) There are four Democrats on the ballot and four Republicans.

Besides governor, we also will be electing four other statewide officials: Lieutenant Governor (who runs on a ticket with the governor), the state Secretary of State, the state Treasurer (with a primary for each party), and the state Attorney General (primary for Democrats). We also will have a statewide election for a representative to the University of Colorado Board of Regents, the governing body of the university. This position is called the at-large position, since it elected by the whole state. There also will be elections in specific congressional districts for other CU regents.

State and County Races

Looking toward the general election in November, about half of the state Senate and all of the state House of Representatives is up for election. Some have primaries first.

Counties also will be electing a number of officials, so it is important to consider all these races that are “down ballot,” races that are not as prominent but still very important.

It’s not too early to begin paying attention and looking into the candidates. There are already TV commercials running for some candidates for governor. Be an informed voter! Remember to prepare before you vote!

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