Colorado town mulls mandatory voting
RIDGWAY, Colorado – Residents of this Old West-meets-New Age town can be fined if their fences are too high, they have too many chickens, their dogs aren’t on leashes or their weeds are out of control.Tom Hennessy would like to add not voting to that list.Hennessy, a popular Ridgway brewer and pub owner, is proposing that the mostly dirt-street town at the edge of the San Juan Mountains become a national model by enacting a mandatory-voting statute. Residents who don’t bother to vote, for no good reason, would be fined.”We could do this. It would be a paradigm shift,” Hennessy said. “We could be the great civics lesson in representative democracy.”The Town Council agreed to put the matter on the ballot for a recent town election as a nonbinding opinion question.A letter to the editor of the Ridgway Sun quickly followed. Nonvoting resident Eric Sanford wrote that he would enjoy “the privilege of being the first to file a lawsuit against the Town of Ridgway and individual members of the Town Council.”Hennessy proposes adding a “none of the above” ballot choice to protect free speech. But fear of lawsuits prompted a council already grappling with unpopular budget cuts, including to the town’s Pickin’ in the Park concerts, to kill the ballot question.Lawsuits weren’t the only concern for council member John Clark.The stained-glass artist and computer consultant said he feared the ballot measure would upset a delicate balance in a 1,000-person red/blue town where conservatives and liberals, and cowboys and kayakers, live in somewhat tenuous harmony.”Tom is going at this from the idea of: Think globally and act locally,” Clark said. “I think that’s a mistake.”But the idea is gaining traction.Ridgway Sun editor David Mullings called the idea “either stupid, or brilliant” in an editorial that also urged residents to continue the discussion.Read the rest of this Denver Post story at http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14958536.