How do candidates get on November’s ballot? |

How do candidates get on November’s ballot?

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

We all know Election Day is in November. But how do those candidates wind up on the fall ballot?

The process of electing candidates begins with the party caucuses which, this year, are held on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Both Democratic and Republican caucuses are held on the same date (in lieu of a state primary), though, obviously, not together. The caucuses are grass-roots affairs where speeches are made, candidates for local office introduced, and partisan fervor runs amok.

On the Democratic side at least, and, presumably, similarly on the Republican, at some point in the evening, the caucus breaks into precincts or voting districts. The precincts elect precinct captains for the coming general election, consider party administrative matters, and formulate and adopt “planks” in the party platform, or policies vital to the local constituency which will be submitted to the party at the state level for consideration as part of the state party platform. The caucuses also elect delegates to the county assemblies.

Both the Republican and Democratic county assemblies will be held approximately three weeks after the caucuses. There, various local party positions are filled, administrative matters are handled and formally endorsed, the platform committee reports the resolutions adopted for presentation, state and local candidates are introduced, speeches are presented and candidates for local office are officially nominated.

Generally, the county assemblies are energetic affairs where debate, spirited discussion, refinement, and, ultimately, votes are taken on platform planks adopted by the assembly. Delegates are also chosen for the parties’ state assemblies.

The Democratic State Convention will be held in Colorado Springs the weekend of June 14 and, in format, if not policy, will likely share striking similarities to the Republican Convention held the weekend of May 31.

Essentially, the party business of the respective state organizations is conducted including: Election of delegates to the national conventions (this year, in Denver for the Democrats, Minneapolis for the Republicans), election of “electors” to the Electoral College (yes, there are actual electors), and official nomination of candidates for the United States House of Representatives and Senate. Additionally, votes for delegates for the presidential election, are taken.

In addition to the official nomination of candidates, the state party platforms are presented, debated, amended and ultimately put to a vote of the convention delegates. The process can be colorful and lively.

Of course, the conventions would not be the same without the hoopla, outrageous costumes, shameless boosterism, and rallying the faithful which seems at least as much a part of the process as the more weighty issues with which the delegates must contend. The atmosphere is festive, upbeat and flush with the enthusiasm of the possible.

The political process leading, ultimately, to candidates and election is a genuine grass roots affair and vital to our institutions and our political way of life. Involvement in the process, whatever your political persuasion, is essential to democracy.

With the presidential field apparently wide open and with so much at stake, being involved this year seems particularly consequential. Colorado’s caucus date is part of “Super Tuesday,” the date that 22 states hold either their caucuses or primaries. By Feb. 6th ” at least in the presidential primaries ” everything but the fat lady singing will most likely have happened.

It’s an exciting year to follow politics. Be a part of it; Republican, Democrat, or independent, get out and vote!

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 926-4461 or by e-mail at

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