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Thursday March 23rd 2017

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Ballot issue 302: Raising Barriers to Democracy


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In this time of disaffection with government and the political process, populist ideas and candidates like Donald Trump are getting traction with promises of making broken things great again with illusory solutions.  Issue 302 fits that mold.

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What exactly is the problem that 302 seeks to fix?  Issue 302 is like the barriers to voting set up in some states, ostensibly established to solve a nonexistent problem of voter fraud, but really intended to deny voters access to the essence of democracy—the right to vote.  Issue 302 would take away our right to vote for the candidates of our choosing while pretending to address purported problems with incumbency.

However, we are not suffering from incumbency stasis.  Election statistics reaching back almost 50 years, as illustrated in Richard Valenty’s June 24th Blue Line article indicate plenty of City Council membership turnover, and fairly high election success rates for first time candidates.

What will 302 accomplish?  Issue 302 is a lifetime and retroactive limit, an extreme and radical level of restriction far beyond Colorado’s own state law.  Like the aforementioned voting barriers, 302 will suppress ethnic and racial diversity on council.  Only rarely are minorities elected to our council.   When we are lucky enough to get a minority council member who is highly valued by voters for the perspective they bring to council and especially valued by our minority communities for the sensitivity they bring to governance, we should be able to keep them on the council as long as they’re willing to stay.  But under 302, that council member would be term limited forever.  That disenfranchises voters who are already politically marginalized.

Another “problem” cited by proponents is the experience incumbents bring gives them unfair advantages in elections.   But consider this: maybe Boulder is the desirable place it is today because of the experience and wisdom of previous City Councils.  Issue 302 will deny voters the right to choose that experience.

We already have term limits.  It’s called VOTING.  Just last year voters turned out an incumbent and replaced him with a first time candidate.  Open Boulder, the organization behind the ballot initiative, seeks to become the self-appointed gatekeeper to our democracy by limiting your candidate choices.

Be pro choice—vote NO on 302!

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