What is a Caucus and How Would It Affect Colorado’s Trump Ban? 

Erce / shutterstock.com
Erce / shutterstock.com

Conservatives across the nation were dealt a blow this week when Colorado dragged former President Donald Trump through legal loopholes and barred his candidacy. Because defeating Trump fairly is becoming increasingly challenging, other blue states are taking notice and hoping to follow suit to give President Joe Biden some kind, any kind, of edge. 

Now what? 

Trump could opt to let Colorado go. With his current lead, securing Colorado delegates is unnecessary to secure the Republican nomination. Because Colorado is a predictably blue state, its electoral votes are a moot point for the GOP frontrunner. Moreover, the appeals process demands considerable time and financial resources. 

But supporters know that Trump will never walk away from a fight. The next step would be an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. It’s hard to predict how SCOTUS would rule. After all, Trump has yet to be convicted of “causing an insurrection.” But the Biden administration has stacked the deck, and there is little doubt that Trump will be found guilty by design.  

The Supreme Court faces two potential options regarding Trump’s eligibility under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. One option is disqualifying Trump, preventing him from appearing on any ballot.  

Alternatively, the Court may rule that there was no “insurrection” as defined by the 14th Amendment and overturn the Colorado Supreme Court decision. They could also cite procedural issues, leaving room for future legal challenges based on technicalities. 

Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans are discussing switching its primary to a caucus, meaning that Coloradans could still vote for Trump. If he wins, Trump will receive his delegates at the nominating convention despite being banned from the ballot. 

A caucus is a more interactive and public voting process that relies heavily on turnout at gatherings in designated public places throughout the state. During a caucus, participants openly debate the merits of each candidate. Supporters of different candidates try to persuade others to join them. Think of it as a PTA meeting to choose a new treasurer. 

After the discussions, participants vote for their preferred candidate. The number of delegates allocated to each candidate is determined based on the support they received from caucus participants. These delegates will go on to represent the state at the party’s national convention, bypassing the need for a ballot vote. 

Caucuses are known for their grassroots and community-oriented nature, but they can be time-consuming and have a much lower voter turnout than balloted primary elections. Additionally, there are concerns about accessibility and participation in caucuses. 

Many don’t realize that Iowa, Nevada, Wyoming, and North Dakota use caucuses to choose presidential candidates. Colorado used caucuses to select presidential candidates for decades, but in 2019, the state transitioned to ballot voting. Some may argue the change happened “just in time” for the 2020 election when Biden “easily swept” the state by 400,000, or about 14%, of votes. 

The GOP had already predicted that some states would move to block Trump and had a Plan B waiting to fight for his right to appear on ballots. Colorado’s GOP plans to ask the Republican National Committee for permission to switch from a primary to a caucus system. According to RNC rules, a waiver can be granted if it’s in the best interests of the Republican Party or if following the usual delegate selection process is not possible. The decision for this waiver lies with the RNC’s executive committee, and the next vote on this matter is scheduled for their winter meeting in Las Vegas at the end of January. 

The first obstacle would be obtaining a waiver from a party that fears and despises Trump almost as much as Democrats do. And even if the GOP is granted the waiver, there is an uphill battle to be fought with the same lawmakers who refused to put Trump’s name on the ballot in the first place. Most likely, they will refuse a Republican request to recognize caucus results. 

The court has put its decision on hold until January 4 to accommodate appeals. If the issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court before that date, Colorado will be forced to include Trump’s name on the primary ballot until the Supreme Court acts. 

The states seeking to block Trump from the ballot are throw-away states for Republicans, and the GOP would not have won them in a normal election cycle. But the 2024 election is far from normal, and it would have been interesting to see if Trump would have won them in the face of a failing Biden. But Democrats have a bottomless bag of tricks to eliminate their competition, and ultimately, they will find one that sticks. Luckily, Trump is as determined to win as they are to destroy him.