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 Deputy Mayor.

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 we made:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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