By Olga Heifets
What’s on the Colorado ballot this fall and what might the impact be on Boulder County residents? On Tuesday, October 11th, Community Foundation Boulder County hosted an educational event intended to help nonprofit attendees and others learn about this year’s state ballot initiatives and their potential impacts.
Reflecting on the election, U.S. Representative Jared Polis kicked off the session, noting “These decisions will have a profound impact on the future of Colorado.” Next, Hillary Hall of the Boulder County Clerk’s Office reviewed current election laws, saying “As important as what we’re voting on, is understanding the process.” Josie Heath of the Community Foundation added, “So often we as nonprofits say we’re not political, but it’s absolutely important for you to remind people of their civic responsibilities, what their rights are, and to help them not feel intimidated.”
Regarding the mechanics of the election, Ms. Hall noted that Colorado is a mail ballot state – though they can opt to vote in person, all active voters receive ballots in the mail (when the law was enacted, 85% already voted in this way). Additionally, because Colorado has no pre-registration deadline, those residing in CO for 22+ days are able to register up to and including on Election Day (ID required; to receive a mail in ballot, register online at least 8 days prior to election).
The Elections Commission encourages people to vote early – the commission is planning on nearly 100% turn out this year. Early voting is strongly encouraged to reduce campaign calls, avoid last-minute lines, and assist with processing. “Return your ballot early!” advised Ms. Hall, “We have a good process in place and start 2 weeks before the big day, but it will still take time.”
Boulder County residents are encouraged to visit BoulderCountyVotes.org to check their voter registration. While there, they can sign up for Ballot Track to receive real-time status updates about their personal mail-in ballot. Interested residents are also invited to attend a General Election Ballot Processing Facility tour (1750 33rd Street in Boulder) on either Thursday November 3rd from 1-2:30pm, or the evening of Monday November 7th from 5:30-7pm.
In closing, Ms Hall urged attendees to, “Be election-ready. This year is expected to be the largest voter turnout in history.” Anyone with questions about this election is invited to get in touch at email@example.com or by calling 303-413-7740.
Next up, Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Senior Director of Public Policy, Mark Turner, presented a sketch of some of the ballot measures on the docket next month. Not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of each, below find a short snapshot of what he presented, and his suggested links to where additional perspectives on each can be found.
Nonprofits are encouraged to connect with the Colorado Nonprofit Association policy team for resources like “Speak for Yourself: Nonprofit Public Policy Toolkit” and more.
Amendment 69: ColoradoCare – Will create a new health care system for CO residents (replacing, in essence, private insurance with a taxation system for paying for coverage). Colorado Nonprofit Association’s policy position is NEUTRAL.
- Pro arguments – Covers all Coloradans (for nonprofits, this reduces demand for services to the uninsured), taxes are less than current premiums (which benefits individuals, nonprofits and businesses) and ColoradoCare’s board would be elected by and accountable to Coloradans. [Find additional details at ColoradoCare.org]
- Con arguments – New tax revenue is nearly double the state budget (taxes exceed premiums for families, nonprofits and businesses), no guarantees of reduced healthcare costs and improved quality, limited board accountability to government, and not financially sustainable. [Find additional details at ColoradansforColoradans.com]
Amendment 70: State Minimum Wage – Will move current hourly minimum wage in Colorado from $8.31 (tip wage remains $3.02 less than minimum wage) at a steady rate, up to $9.30 in Jan 2017, then to $12/h in Jan 2020. Colorado Nonprofit Association position is SUPPORT.
- Pro arguments – Will help 420,000 residents become more self-sufficient; lower turnover and increased productivity for employers. [Find additional details at ColoradoFamiliesForAFairWage.org]
- Con arguments – Wage increase is too high, increase will lead to lost jobs/hours, prices will increases to pay for higher wages. [Find additional details at KeepColoradoWorking.com]
Amendment 71: Initiated Constitutional Amendments – Will make it harder to amend the Colorado state constitution. Colorado Nonprofit Association’s position is NEUTRAL.
- Pro arguments – Will require statewide signature collection giving more residents a say, will instead encourage statutory changes, less special interest influence (fewer amendments for nonprofits to consider). [Find additional details at RaiseTheBarCo.com]
- Con arguments – Undermines the initiative process, undermines policy tool used by citizens and nonprofits because only wealthy interests can afford amendment campaigns. [Find additional details at StopRaisingTheBar.com]
Amendment 72: Tobacco Taxes – Will increase current taxes from $0.89 to $2.59 per pack, and other tobacco from 40% to 62% of manufacturer’s price. Colorado Nonprofit Association’s position is SUPPORT.
- Pro arguments – Deters smoking, offsets associated healthcare costs with smoking, $315m for research/prevention/treatment related to smoking (funding would support nonprofits – disease prevention, mental health needs, and health care needs in underserved areas supported). [Find additional details at HealthyCo2016.com]
- Con arguments – triples current taxes, locks spending percentages into the constitution, disproportionately impacts low-income residents (needs for nonprofit services may increase due to reduced income). [Find additional details at NoOnAmendment72.com]
Proposition 106: Medical Aid in Dying – Medication for terminally ill residents, including requirements for prescription (verbal and written requests with witness, doctor confirmations) and addresses legal ramifications. Colorado Nonprofit Association’s position is NEUTRAL.
- Pro arguments – Patients should have right to decide (some nonprofits support this right), avoids prolonged suffering, includes adequate safeguards. [Find additional details at CoEndOfLifeOptions.org]
- Con arguments – Inadequate safeguards against coercion of patients, medical ethics concerns. [Find additional details at VoteNoProp106.com]
Proposition 107/108: Open Primaries – 107 re-establishes a presidential primary that is open to unaffiliated voters and 108 opens state/local non-presidential primaries to unaffiliated voters. Colorado Nonprofit Association’s position is NEUTRAL.
- Pro arguments – Increases voter participation in primaries (some nonprofits are dedicated to increased turnout) by allowing unaffiliated voters (currently 36% of registered voters) to participate [Find additional details at LetCoVote2016.com]
- Con arguments – 107 shifts election costs from parties to taxpayers, undermines caucuses by removing the vote on presidential candidates (some nonprofits support these community-based discussions)
Issue 4B: SCFD Renewal – Continuing the sales tax that provides funding for arts and cultural organizations in the seven county metro area. Colorado Nonprofit Association’s position is SUPPORT.