Upon review, Eagle County voters call term-limits question confusing
Effort to allow commissioners another term went surprisingly different than a similar attempt 11 years ago
Eagle County commissioners said they were surprised to see such a large margin of support for Ballot Issue 1A, the recent effort to allow them a third term in office.
Commission Chair Matt Scherr, in expressing his shock, said he took it as an affirmation from voters, “if you’ve got a good government, stick with them,” he said on Tuesday after learning of the results.
But local voter Kris Miller had a different take.
“The question asked if they should be limited to serving three terms … yes or no,” Miller said. “I think voting ‘no’ in that situation could be interpreted as voting for no limitations whatsoever.”
Miller is an Eagle County native who well remembers the county’s last attempts at attaining a third term for commissioners.
“It failed miserably,” she said.
That was 2010.
“Have county voter preferences shifted that dramatically in 11 years, where now we’re overwhelmingly in favor of the idea?” Miller said. “Or is there maybe something else going on?”
Miller dug up the 2010 ballot and found much different wording than the 2021 ballot.
The effort from 2010 asked: “Shall the maximum term of office for a county commissioner in Eagle County, Colorado, be lengthened by one additional term so that county commissioners may be elected for a maximum of three consecutive terms?” It received 4,371 “yes” votes and 9,591 “no” votes.
The effort from 2021 asked: “Shall persons elected to the Office of County Commissioner be limited to service three consecutive terms, a modification of the current limits permitted by Article XVIII, Section 11 of the Colorado Constitution?” It received 8,449 “yes” votes and 6,231 “no” votes.
Miller said the misleading part comes from reading the words, “shall persons elected to office of county commissioner be limited,” a question to which she said many people in Eagle County would answer “yes” regardless of their stance on two terms versus three.
Scherr said he agrees it could have been misleading for voters who did know the information referenced in the second part of 1A – “the current limits permitted by Article XVIII” of the Colorado Constitution.
“If it is misleading in the sense that you don’t know what limits are for commissioners, how do you, on a ballot question, educate people?” Scherr said.
Miller said for an answer to that question, one could simply look to the 2010 question.
“It’s pretty easy to state in the question that this will be lengthening the maximum by one additional term,” she said.
Scherr said the commissioners were not deliberately misleading voters.
“We knew, intentionally, going in this was about limits,” Scherr said. “I suppose it could be misleading, but it’s not intentionally misleading.”
‘3 wrong votes’
In taking to social media to find out if people were indeed misled, Miller said she received more than 100 comments from local voters saying they felt wronged by 1A, with some people even admitting to voting incorrectly or saying they knew of friends and family who did so.
Tim Hennum told the Vail Daily he is an Eagle County resident and voter who thought by voting “no” on 1A he was voting for no term limits at all, so he voted “yes.”
In finding out later that he was voting to extend beyond two terms, he expressed disappointment in his decision in a Facebook post, saying his loved ones made the same mistake, commenting: “3 wrong votes from my family that erroneously went to the ‘yes’ column.”
Danielle Couch left a succinct comment that summed up the misunderstanding.
“’Limiting to three (terms) actually meant ‘extending beyond two terms,’” Couch said.
Miller said she would be in favor of another ballot issue to rescind 1A.
“Whether it was intentional or not, people do feel deceived,” she said.