Lawsuit Challenging Colorado’s Open Primary System Dismissed

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, April 8, a federal judge dismissed a conservative lawsuit challenging Colorado’s primary election system. The state has an “open primary” system whereby unaffiliated voters can cast their ballots in any party’s primary. This differs from a closed primary in which only voters registered with a particular party can vote in that party’s primary. For context, the open primary system is used across 21 states. In Colorado, as of March 1, 2022, about 44% of the state’s active voters are unaffiliated with a political party. In fact, there are more unaffiliated active voters than those registered with either the Democratic or Republican parties, meaning that any change to the state’s primary system would throw voters into complete disarray.

Despite the large number of unaffiliated Colorado voters, conservative activists filed a lawsuit challenging this system with the ultimate goal of advocating for a closed primary. The plaintiffs, Republican Colorado voters and an unincorporated association, alleged that the open primary system violates the rights to free speech and association in violation of the First Amendment and dilutes the plaintiffs’ votes in violation of the 14th Amendment. However, the court dismissed the case after finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing, meaning that they did not have the legal ability to challenge the primary system in the name of the entire Colorado Republican Party (which is not involved in this lawsuit). This dismissal means that Colorado’s open primary system remains in place.

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.