State group offers resources for voters
How to learn more
It can be a bit of work to educate yourself about a lengthy ballot. Here are some on-line resources:
• http://www.govotecolorado.com can check your current voter registration status.
• http://www.ballotready.com: By Labor Day, this website take your Zip code and provide a copy of the ballot you’ll vote in November.
• http://www.countmeincolorado.com provides links to more voter resources, as well as more information about the group’s efforts to get more Colorado voters to vote their entire ballot.
• For more information about Count Me In, email group director Alexis Marsh, email@example.com
EAGLE — Facing what’s sure to be a lengthy state ballot this fall, it would be easy for a voter to just skip over a lot of it. Lots of people do just that — who knows anything about voting to retain judges?
The people behind Count Me In Colorado believe it’s important to cast votes all the way through the ballot and are trying to ease the confusion that can come when faced with a host of propositions, questions and amendments. On Monday, Carol Hedges, of Count Me In, held a midday primer on how to encourage deep-ballot voting. Turnout was scant, with fewer than a dozen of the politically interested attending.
Anne Essen was hoping for a better turnout, saying Hedges was “sort of preaching to the choir.
Still, the point of Monday’s session was to provide some education about Colorado’s system of direct democracy and where general-fund money goes, and help people learn how to influence their friends to vote.
Hedges’ main job is at the Colorado Fiscal Institute, a nonpartisan group that doesn’t endorse candidates, but does weigh in on various ballot issues regarding taxation and spending issues.
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With that background, part of Hedges’ presentation focused on the need for people to think beyond their town, county or school district when voting on financial issues. Hedges called voting on ballot issues a “privilege of decision-making” that can effect how the state funds roads, schools, jails and the myriad other items on a government’s to-do list.
Colorado is one of 24 states — most west of the Mississippi River — that allow citizens to propose new laws or override legislative decisions. Colorado also has an easy-to-amend constitution, something that one of this fall’s ballot issues may address.
Raise the Bar Colorado is still gathering petition signatures with the aim of making the state’s constitution harder to amend. That measure doesn’t have official language yet, but will be relatively straightforward.
More difficult to assess are questions that ask for tax increases.
Hedges noted that the requirements of the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Right amendment — commonly known as TABOR — requires any measure that carries a tax increase to put the estimated amount of that increase in the ballot issue’s first sentences.
For instance, the already-on-the-ballot Amendment 69, a proposal to completely revamp the state’s health insurance system will ask voters “shall taxes be increased by (several billion dollars) per year” before going into the meat of the measure.
“You have to get past that first sentence to really understand what they’re asking,” Hedges said.
The same language will be on a handful of local proposals. Voters this year are likely to be asked a pair of property tax questions by Eagle County Schools and a pair of sales tax proposals from Eagle County.
Those tax measures are just the start of the ballot beyond candidates for federal, state and local offices. The ballot won’t be finalized until mid-August, but Hedges said voters are likely to be asked about:
• A minimum wage increase.
• A hike in the tobacco tax.
• A measure called Colorado Priorities, which would refund to taxpayers money collected in excess of TABOR limits or use it for schools, roads and college funding.
Hedges acknowledged that there are people who believe state taxpayers need to help fund services and infrastructure in a fast-growing state, and those who believe government is already spending enough.
“You need to make sure everyone you know votes their perspective,” she said. “That’s what Count Me In is about.
After the session, Vail resident Audre Engleman said she was surprised at how much she needs to learn about how state and local government fund their various operations.
“It’s overwhelming how little I know,” Engleman said.
Joy Harrison has for several years been involved in party politics with the local Democrats. And, she added, she’s circulating petitions for the Colorado Priorities measure.
Harrison, too, wished more people had turned out for Monday’s session, saying Hedges has some “real good” information for all voters.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.