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GOP leaders, election officials hope to avoid confusion on primary ballots after candidates drop out

Majority of Colorado's GOP primary ballot no longer running while nation awaits Supreme Court ruling on Trump's name
GOP candidates dropping out before Super Tuesday
Posted at 6:05 AM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-30 10:11:36-05

COLORADO — Despite a majority of Republican presidential candidates dropping out well ahead of Colorado’s March 5 primary on Super Tuesday, their names will still appear on ballots sent out to GOP voters.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold certified primary ballots on January 5, meaning those who were still in the race by that deadline will remain on Colorado’s ballot.

Plus, ballots for military and overseas voters were already mailed out, including over 5,100 ballots for El Paso County voters.

But with a majority of those GOP candidates no longer in the race, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announcing an end to his bid on Sunday, Republican voters in Colorado may be confused or left wondering what happens if they cast a vote for one of those now defunct names.

Donald Trump, Nikki Haley go head-to-head in New Hampshire primary

“Those people's names will still be on the ballot. However, they can vote for those people, the votes will be counted, but they won't mean anything, because they're no longer a viable candidate,” said Vickie Tonkins, chair for the El Paso County Republicans.

Essentially, a vote for someone like Vivek Ramaswamy, Asa Hutchinson, Chris Christie, or Ron DeSantis will be a wasted vote since no state delegates will be awarded to them, she said.

Now, as voters in New Hampshire head to the polls on Tuesday, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley remains as the only viable (albeit distant second) challenger to former President Donald Trump.

But even then, there is a chance Haley drops out of the race before Super Tuesday if she continues falling far below Trump in the primaries, despite her campaign signaling otherwise this week.

“She probably will [drop out], before New Hampshire, she'll be able to make a decision,” said Tonkins. “I was really surprised that DeSantis dropped out before she did to be honest with you.”

Steve Schleiker, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder, said he expects it to be a busy election day with voters possibly waiting to return their ballots to ensure their candidate of choice is still in the running.

Schleiker said candidates dropping out in the days before an election isn’t anything new, but cautioned voters from filling it out until they’re certain someone like Nikki Haley is still in the running.

“On election day, that candidate in their campaign may suspend or withdraw, and [voters will] call up saying, ‘Hey, I want to cast another vote.’ You cannot. You've already voted,” said Scheliker. “People will want to redo and you don't. You get one vote.”

Of course, the looming question in the state (and around the nation) is how the Supreme Court will rule regarding Donald Trump’s name appearing on the Colorado ballot.

Since the high court agreed to take up the case, his name remains for now following the Colorado Supreme Court’s December decision to bar him from the ballot, claiming he had a role in an insurrection attempt on the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The court cited Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, saying Trump therefore can’t hold office.

Though assumptions are abound that the Supreme Court justices, composed of three justices appointed by Trump himself, is that he will stay on the ballot, steps are being taken by the Colorado GOP should they rule against him.

“If it does go that way with the Supreme Court and does not go in the favor of the people here in Colorado, then we would go to a pure caucus system,” said Vickie Tonkins. “Where we would select our delegates and select our person for the general election.”

It’s unclear when the Supreme Court would issue a decision, but the hope and expectation is that it comes before the March primary. At that point, Tonkins said, a caucus would be held almost immediately for Colorado’s 37 delegates.


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