We urge City voters to vote yes on Ballot Question 2G, which reads, “Shall Sections 38, 45, and 56 of the City Charter be amended pursuant to Ordinance 8274 to allow the Boulder City Council to adopt ordinances that permit use of electronic petitions and to permit on-line electronic signing or endorsement of initiative, referendum, and recall petitions?”
The City’s Campaign Finance and Elections Working Group unanimously recommended this to Council, who unanimously voted to put it on the ballot.
(The initiative, referendum and recall processes are the elements of direct democracy. The initiative is where a group of citizens gathers enough signatures to put a proposed piece of legislation on the ballot and asks the voters to approve it. A referendum uses a similar process to give citizens a chance to vote directly on legislation already passed by the governing body. And recalls ask the voters if they want to remove an elected official from office, typically for some serious malfeasance.)
A great deal of what made our city and state great was accomplished with ballot initiatives. Here in Boulder, citizens gathered signatures for and then passed the country’s first voter-approved open space tax and first gay rights law, among many things we take for granted. On the state level, citizens put on the ballot and passed the country’s first renewable energy requirements and first legal marijuana and hemp, among 13 important initiatives in the last 18 years: tinyurl.com/Coloradoin.
Unfortunately, in its more than a century of existence, these processes have not been significantly improved for the most part, but have been made more difficult, as with Colorado’s Amendment 71.
2G will enable our City Council to bring direct democracy into the 21st century (finally!) in two ways: first by allowing circulators to gather signatures using specially equipped tablets, like those used in Denver and Washington D.C., a system called “eSign,” that are synchronized to the state voter registration database daily. It has already reduced invalid signatures from 34 percent (cited in a recent Daily Camera editorial) to less than 5 percent.
2G also allows the Council to implement a system so that citizens can endorse petitions ONLINE. We’ve been able to register to vote, or change address or party affiliation online in Colorado (since 2010) and in 35 other states, and have been able to open bank accounts and make financial transactions online for many years. The idea is to use similar security and identification by driver’s license or other state ID to allow citizens to endorse petitions online. If it’s good enough to give you the right to vote, it’s more than good enough to let you sign a petition that might get you the right to vote on a citizen initiative.
So it’s clear, this will not apply to actual voting, which will continue to be done using secret ballots.
Using an online system will open up the process to groups without large funds, resulting in a greater diversity of proposals. It will make it easy to read petitions, because the full text will be available online. And people will be able to sign 24/7 from anywhere at any time. It will also prevent you from accidentally signing a petition twice, and allow you to “unsign” a petition if you change your mind.
An online system will also allow the City to save the expense of comparing physical signatures, because identification will be done by driver’s license or ID as at the voter registration website GoVoteColorado.com.
2G will also allow the city council to eliminate all the problems that have shown up when using paid petitioners, including forgery, misrepresentation, stealing of petitions, holding petitions hostage for money and the paid harassment of petitioners.
Of course, 2G does not change the ability to continue to use paper petitions; it simply allows the council to implement these other alternatives, once they are satisfied that they are secure and reliable.
2G has been endorsed by the Boulder County Democratic Party, PLAN Boulder County, the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Our Revolution Boulder and East Boulder County United, so far. You can learn much more at tinyurl.com/yacecc5q and at our Facebook group Strengthen Direct Democracy.
2G or not 2G, it’s not really a question!
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.