By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
A panel of lawmakers Monday approved a measure, brought to the Legislature by the only unaffiliated member, which would make it somewhat easier for an unaffiliated candidate to get their name on the ballot.
Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison, who left the Democratic Party in December and registered herself as unaffiliated, is the primary sponsor of House Bill 1271, that changes the length of time in which a candidate must declare any party affiliation prior to the election. Previously, a candidate had to declare their affiliation one year before the election; HB 1271 would move the declaration deadline to the first business day after January 1 prior to the election.
“It’s a good thing for people who are trying to run unaffiliated,” said Curry. “ It will set up a process that is equal for various folks that want to run — regardless of their party status.”
Senate sponsor John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, thinks that the measure is necessary to make it easier for people to run for office, regardless of their party affiliation or non-affiliation, and that the unaffiliated, in particular, stand to benefit from the measure,because they aren’t operating within a party structure where the deadlines are well known.
“I think it’s a good idea because I think it should be easy for people to run for public office and not difficult,” Morse told the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Sen. David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said he prefers the yearlong time frame rather than the January date for the extra measure of forethought that a full year would provide and questioned the need to change the timeline. His concerns were directed towards the motivations of candidates.
“I’d like to know that they (candidates) have ‘credentials’ and that they have those for at least a year and not just switch into the party so they can run,” said Schultheis.
Morse told the panel that the parties would still have the power to adopt any rules they want, and could even set the bar higher, but state law shouldn’t prohibit people from running if they aren’t registered a full year before the election. Curry and Morse both agreed that January is simply a more intuitive date.
“The party can set whatever standards it wants to make sure that person is truly who they are and not just doing it for the purpose of an election,” said Morse. “The first day of January makes more sense just from a ‘this is an election year’ standpoint,” said Morse in defense of the shorter timeline.
The bill, if passed by the full Senate, would not take effect until 2012, and therefore wouldn’t diminish any hurdles for Curry to get her name on November’s ballot should she want to run for the seat she now holds. Since she changed her affiliation after the November 2009 deadline Curry will need to gather signatures to have her name placed on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate.