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Letter to Boulder City Council prior to their annual planning retreat

Shelby Bates | Published on 1/4/2022
LWVBC helped write and then signed a letter asking Boulder City Council to consider electoral reforms, specifically proportional representation. A diverse group of political thinkers co-signed, including former council members Jan Burton and Steve Pomerance who wrote Daily Camera opinion columns about alternative voting methods to elect council members. 

The full letter is included below:

From: Marcus Ogren
Sent: Tuesday, January 4, 2022 5:37 PM
To: council@bouldercolorado.gov
Cc: vmteam@lwvbc.org; JAN BURTON; Peter Mayer; allyn feinberg; Eric M. Budd; Chelsea Castellano; Jesse Kumin; Harry Hempy; Steve Pomerance; Kurt Nordback
Subject: Proportional representation and other reforms

Dear Boulder City Council,

Our country has recently seen the importance and urgency of an inclusive democratic process one that allows the greatest possible voter participation and provides confidence that the voting process gives the most democratic result. Boulder’s council elections traditionally have more competition and end up with more diversity than single-winner ward contests in similar Colorado cities. However, our plurality system of “winner-take-all” voting means that winners do not necessarily proportionally represent the electorate.

To provide better representation of our entire electorate in the election of city council members and to improve knowledge of and confidence in our local elections, we would recommend that Council assemble a group of informed and interested community members to evaluate possible alternatives to the current systems.

The objective of this group would be to ensure that the system for the selection of city council members improves equitable representation, so that the council best reflects the diversity of opinions held by our community about the multiplicity of community issues. To fulfill this objective, the group could explore and evaluate alternative voting methods, including but not limited to proportional ranked-choice voting. We learned by the success of the November 2020 Ballot Measure 2E that the Boulder electorate is eager to adopt more expressive ways to vote since they overwhelmingly supported (by 78%) the direct election of our Mayor through ranked-choice (instant-runoff) voting. The group could use diversity, equity, and inclusion evaluation and assessment tools such as the League of Women Voters’ Equity Assessment (attached) to increase inclusivity throughout the group process.

In addition, the group could research and evaluate other election reform or governance changes that may increase and diversify voter participation in our elections and in our city’s government. These might include establishing fairer pay for city council members, alternatives to odd-year November elections, and improving election law compliance and better enforcement actions to further strengthen Boulder’s existing election policies.

These issues could be examined separately or together with a working group or a longer- standing Elections Commission. We urge you to consider our request for an elections-focused working group, with the objectives and outcomes noted above, for the city’s 2022-23 workplan. We hope at least one of these reforms can be placed on the ballot in 2022 or shortly thereafter.

We look forward to supporting you in your efforts to improve elections in the City of Boulder.

Signed,

Marcus Ogren, League of Women Voters of Boulder County Celeste Landry, League of Women Voters of Boulder County Jan Burton, Open Boulder Foundation
Mark McIntyre, Open Boulder

Peter Mayer, PLAN-Boulder
Allyn Feinberg, PLAN-Boulder
Mark Van Akkeren, Boulder Progressives
Eric Budd, Bedrooms Are For People
Chelsea Castellano, Bedrooms Are For People
Jesse Kumin, Best Democracy
Neal McBurnett, election integrity consultant
Jeanne Clelland, Professor of Mathematics, CU-Boulder Harry O. Hempy, Boulder resident
Steve Pomerance, former city council member
Kurt Nordback, Boulder resident