Judge tosses Colorado Republicans lawsuit over unaffiliated voters in primary elections

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Colorado Republicans that sought to close primary elections to unaffiliated voters.

Senior U.S. District Judge John Kane found the Republicans who filed the lawsuit did not have the legal standing to do so. The plaintiffs, four current or former Republican candidates for office and a GOP party chair, sought to allow only party members to vote in primary elections, rather than keeping them open to unaffiliated voters, arguing that the current process violates their constitutional rights.

The lawsuit was not brought by the Colorado Republican Party, and the party cannot “litigate this case by proxy,” Kane wrote in a 32-page order in which he found the plaintiffs did not claim any personal injury and so could not bring the legal challenge.

“Like Don Quixote, plaintiffs are self-appointed heroes, defending the rights of their party by going to battle against the allegedly insurmountable obstacle of a three-fourths majority that compels a form of diluted political speech,” Kane wrote. “They have overstepped their bounds.”

Kane found that the Colorado Republican Party already has a clear avenue for excluding unaffiliated voters from the primary process — by opting out of primary elections through a three-fourths vote of the Republicans’ state central committee. Nominees would then be chosen through caucus and assembly, an in-person process that would have involved only a small portion of all registered Republican voters.

The Colorado Republican party chose not to ditch primary elections last fall, rejecting a push from the far-right members of the party. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that meeting the three-fourths threshold for an opt-out committee vote was “nearly impossible,” but never backed up that claim, Kane wrote.

“Plaintiffs have presented absolutely no evidence that the three-fourths threshold is impossible to meet,” Kane wrote.

The lawsuit was brought by state Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks, congressional candidate Laurel Imer, La Plata County Republican Committee Chair Dave Peters, former congressional candidate Charles Stockham, former state Rep. Joann Windholz and the organization People for Association Rights and Bi-Partisan Limited Elections.

They were represented by attorneys Randy Corporon and John Eastman, the former visiting scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder who advised then-President Donald Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election.

Corporon did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. Eastman said in a statement that the legal challenge will continue.

“We continue to believe that the unanimous resolution of the State Central Committee last September authorizing a legal challenge by ‘members’ was sufficient to confer standing,” he said. “But now that the judge has ruled otherwise, we will take steps to address that and then continue to press forward.”

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