BOULDER'S 1993 VOTING BY PHONE BALLOT ISSUE
In 1992 we passed a petition to put to the voters the question:
"Shall the Boulder City Charter be amended to require that voters be allowed to
vote by telephone in all municipal elections...?"
In Boulder municipal elections are held on odd-numbered years, and for these
elections, initiative petitions are required to have the valid signatures of 5%
of the registered voters. Because we passed our petition during '92, city code
required 10% of registered voters. We obtained about 9%.
In 1993 the City Council put us on the ballot, technically as their own
referendum, rather than force us to pass a new 5% petition.
We lost, 59-41%, in a campaign characterized by serious misrepresentation of
technical issues by the City Attorney's Office (later corrected), the refusal
to consider information from the 1974 Televote trials in an evaluation of the
costs of phone voting by the City Manager's Office, and misrepresentation of
the procedural differences between initiative and legislative governance by the
We were amateurs then, and spent only about $5000 on our campaign, less than
any of the successful Council candidates but one. Here are the major mistakes
- Not stressing the increased security of phone voting. We thought we had educated the public about this sufficiently in preceding years, but many people didn't pay attention until the end of the campaign, and voted their fe
ars, not their hopes.
- Not getting students to register and vote sufficiently. Precincts with large
numbers of University of Colorado students did favor our issue, but, typical of
students, they did not vote in large numbers. Now with the national
"Motor-voter" law, registering by mail will make this problem easier to solve. If we had managed to get on the ballot in '92, the increased voting for a
presidential election might have made the difference for us.
- Not using Dr. Campbell and his experience with
Televote to full advantage.
Dr. Campbell had just moved to Boulder and was still working in Virginia a good
deal, so he hadn't much time to campaign for us.
- Not raising enough funds and advertising enough. We also neglected
to send our letters to the editors to the smaller town newspaper. There were other opportunities for free publicity we could have exploited better.
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