Putting the Can in Candidate - Isn't This How Every Election Should Be?

Colorado primary voters went to the polls last weekend and the turnout was heavy.

No, this wasn't an outlandish attempt by Colorado to jump ahead of New Hampshire by holding its presidential primary in October. And the votes cast weren't even of the paper, electronic or even hanging-chad varieties. Instead, these votes came in the form of winter coats and canned goods, as part of the Democrats Work "Coats and Cans" Primary.

This first-of-its-kind straw poll was held in Colorado's Second Congressional District, where three Democratic candidates are locked in a highly competitive primary fight to replace Mark Udall. The rules for our primary are simple: each can counts for one vote; each coat counts for five votes. How eager were Joan Fitz-Gerald, Jared Polis, and Will Shafroth and their supporters to cast their can and coat votes?

Very. And we're happy to report that the rumors of rampant ballot box stuffing are true.

Dozens of supporters and two of the candidates braved freezing rain and frosty temperatures to contribute 461 pounds of food and more than 100 coats in the name of their favorite candidate. The canned goods were donated to FISH of Broomfield, a local food bank, and the coats went to the Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette.

The "Coats and Cans" Primary is the culmination of a year's worth of service events in the Denver metro area held by Democrats Work, a national organization dedicated to mobilizing grassroots Democrats to perform community service. In our efforts to link community service and political engagement, the group has committed more than 700 volunteer hours to community service in Colorado -- cleaning up parks and trails, planting trees, and painting over graffiti, and, now, donating much-needed coats and food for the winter.

And throughout its time in Colorado -- and across the country, from the Bay Area of California to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia -- Democrats Work has made a critical discovery: Democrats prefer their politics with a side of service.

And wouldn't it be nice if all elections were like the "Coats and Cans" Primary? What if competition in a political race was less about cash-on-hand, attack ads or grainy pictures on direct mail pieces and more about how much candidates and their supporters do for their community?

While Democrats Work doesn't endorse candidates, we do endorse helping our communities and it is only right to mention that Jared Polis -- who personally delivered a car load of coats -- won Round One with 596 votes, including 60 coats and 296 cans. (Complete results can be found here.)

But supporters of Shafroth and Fitz-Gerald should not despair! Last Sunday's event was just the first of three rounds. The polls reopen on November 18th in Boulder County. The winning candidate won't be determined until the completion of Round Three, to be held in Summit County in December.

There's still plenty of time to stuff the ballot box!