Briefline

Republicans John Eastman, Rep. Hanks lead lawsuit to block unaffiliated voters from participating in primary

By: - March 2, 2022 12:08 pm

John Eastman is seen on June 4, 2013, as the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage testifying during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A group of Republicans filed a federal lawsuit against Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Feb. 24 seeking to prevent unaffiliated Colorado voters from participating in the June primary.

The suit specifically challenges Proposition 108, the approved 2016 ballot measure that allows voters not registered with a political party to vote in partisan primary elections.

The plaintiffs argue that the policy infringes on their First Amendment rights to free speech and association because it allows non-Republicans to “interfere” with the candidate selection process and their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by forcing Republicans to let unaffiliated voters participate.

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It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by attorneys John Eastman and Randy Corporon on behalf of the plaintiffs state Rep. Ron Hanks of Canon City, who attended the Jan. 6 insurrection and is running for U.S. Senate; Laurel Imer, who is running to represent Colorado’s 7th Congressional District; La Plata County Republican Chairman Dave Peters; Adams County Republican Chairwoman JoAnn Windholz; and Casper Stockham, the 2020 Republican nominee in the 7th district.

Eastman is a conservative former visiting scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder who wrote memos on how the 2020 presidential election could be overturned. He spoke at a pro-Trump rally in Washington D.C., on Jan. 6. He is currently being investigated by the Jan. 6 committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Corporon has spread various conspiracies, including the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Unaffiliated voters make up approximately 44% of Colorado’s active registered voters, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. The lawsuit claims that this share could potentially “hand the nomination to someone who did not receive a majority or even plurality of votes from Republican or Democrat Party members.”

The plaintiffs included as an exhibit an Aspen Daily News letter to the editor that encouraged unaffiliated voters to turn out in the 3rd Congressional District GOP primaries to prevent incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert from getting the nomination.

For the Republican Party to opt out of the open primary created by Proposition 108, three-fourths of the state membership would need to vote to use a different nomination process. The party held a vote on that issue during its central committee meeting in Pueblo last fall, but it failed. The party did, however, give the green light during that meeting for the lawsuit to be filed.

The opt-out method “imposes an undue burden on the Party and its members to determine for itself the method of choosing its nominees,” the lawsuit alleges.

District Court Judge Phillip Brimmer ordered Griswold to respond by March 14 and the plaintiffs to reply to that motion by March 21 under an expedited briefing schedule.

The state questioned the reasons for that quick turnaround.

“The individual Plaintiffs allege an interest in challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 108 as of September 18, 2021. Yet Plaintiffs waited until late February 2022 to file this lawsuit, and now ask the Secretary to mount a defense of a well-known state law on mere days’ notice,” they wrote in their response.

Griswold is currently reviewing the lawsuit and will “defend the Colorado Election Model,” according to a statement from the office.

“Secretary of State Griswold will always stand up for Colorado voters to have their voices heard. Colorado voters strongly supported open primaries that enable unaffiliated voters to choose the primary in which to participate,” it reads.

There will be a preliminary injunction hearing on March 18.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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