By wide margin, Boulderites seem ready to pick their own mayor

Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 (Updated Friday, Nov. 6)

A majority of voting Boulderites appear ready to elect the city’s mayor using a new voting method, a move that will shake up elected leadership and elections. In early returns, ballot question 2E — implementing direct election of the mayor via instant runoff voting — was approved with a 30,000-vote lead.

2E: Our Mayor, Our Choice
As of 11:47 p.m.Thursday
41,244 yes (78.14%)
11,538 no (21.86%)
Total votes: 52,782
Source: Boulder County Clerk and Recorder

The measure proved to be the most popular among consequential issues, with 78.14% in favor as of 11:47 p.m. Thursday. Question 2F, which would add two members to Boulder’s Arts Commission, had more support (85%) but is uncontroversial and largely inconsequential for the general public. Assuming the margin remains, it would put the issue in the company of such widely supported measures as last year’s vaping and open space taxes.

“People think it’s a no-brainer to directly elect their mayor,” said Jan Burton, one of four organizers behind Our Mayor, Our Choice. 

The measure started out as a citizen petition but failed to qualify for the ballot after Boulder city council voted to reject a previous interpretation of signature limits and deadlines used in guidelines issued by the city clerk’s office. A majority of council members voted to place an amended version of the initiative before voters, using their legislative power to set ballot content. 

Dissenting members noted that the state has not issued rules for instant runoff voting, which will be employed in the mayoral election. Boulder County’s clerk and recorder sent a public letter stating that the office may not be equipped to run such a race by 2023, the date laid out in 2E’s ballot language.

That means Boulder might have to foot the bill for operating that election. It’s possible that an extension may be put to voters if an IRV-capable system can’t be implemented in that time.

The campaign gathered 4,021 valid signatures from Boulder voters. Burton said there were two common reactions from signers: Surprise that the electorate didn’t already choose its mayor — members of council do, via majority vote — and insistence that voters should have the final say on this particular post.

Residents were already more aware of alternative voting methods than organizers expected, Burton said. But Tuesday’s vote totals show the desire for something new — or rather, something old. Boulder used to employ a form of ranked voting for city council elections. The method is making something of a comeback across the state and nation.

“People want reform,” Burton said. “It’s our right to elect our leaders. That’s what we’re seeing in the result.”

Find more local results here.

Author’s note: This story has been updated with the latest unofficial totals.

— Shay Castle,, @shayshinecastle

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