What does it take to use Boulder’s new online petitioning system?

Photo by Maya Maceka on Unsplash

Friday, Jan. 29, 2021

When Boulder first released its online petitioning system — Boulder Direct Democracy Online — for testing in January, a bevy of complaints followed.

It was too confusing, users said, too complex, required too many steps. What about privacy concerns? others asked, wary of having a phone number (a prerequisite for endorsing a petition) as part of public voter registration data.

It does require a little bit of effort. The whole process took me 30 minutes (albeit, across three days). Now the world of local, direct democracy is open to me.

Here’s my step-by-step experience, timestamped and hyperlinked for your convenience. The city has also produced materials, including training videos and FAQs, meant to guide you through.

Boulder Direct Democracy Online: https://petitions.bouldercolorado.gov/?_ga=2.50190950.1358357931.1611899515-2110289590.1593802106

FAQ: bouldercolorado.gov/elections/boulder-direct-democracy-online-faq

Training videos: bouldercolorado.gov/elections/boulder-direct-democracy-online-training-videos

Still having issues? Bedrooms Are For People, sponsoring the site’s first petition, has step-by-step troubleshooting: https://www.bedroomsareforpeople.com/sign

Wednesday, Jan. 27
10:22 a.m.

OK, ready to try this out.

I Google “Boulder Direct Democracy Online” and find this page, which sends me here for a test of the system.

First stop: I don’t have my VoterID number.

BUT there is a helpful link to retrieve my voter ID number, right on the page

10:25 a.m.

That takes me here: https://www.sos.state.co.us/voter/pages/pub/home.xhtml

Clicked “Find my registration” which took me here: https://www.sos.state.co.us/voter/pages/pub/olvr/findVoterReg.xhtml

Put in my info, found my registration!

Copied my Voter ID  number to save for later use.

Went back to BDDO, input voter ID number.

10:28 a.m.

Got the popup that I must have a phone number associated with my voter registration, at the state level, or I wouldn’t be able to receive the two-factor authentication. (Should have taken a screenshot!)

I don’t think I have one — I never got notified that my ballot had been counted, for example — so I will try to add one.


I want a Google Voice number to do this. I don’t really need to. My phone number is already public in my email signature, but I’ve been meaning to change that anyway, so seemed like a good time to walk through the process.

10:30 a.m.

I literally Google “how to get a Google voice number.” It sends me to Google Voice (big surprise) and I choose the “Personal” option, since that’s what readers will be doing. I have to select iOS or Android. I have a Droid, so I pick that.

It asks me to install an app, so it looks like I should be doing this on my phone.  

10:35 a.m.

Went to the Play store on my phone. Searched “Google Voice app for Android.” Found, installed and opened.

I had to pick an email account to associate this with. Then it brought up a list of available numbers for three areas in Colorado: Platteville, Denver Sullivan or Keenesburg. 

I made the mistake of typing Boulder in the search bar … no numbers available there. I tried Denver; no dice. I tried Colorado — nothing. The original list of options has disappeared, so I decided to first turn on my location, then exit out of everything and try to start again.

Pro tip: Just pick from the list of places they give you!

10:37 a.m.

Reopen the app.

The same three cities are available as options. I select Denver Sullivan, which is a 720 area code. I wanted 303, but whatever, I’m just happy to have something. Six optional numbers are given to me to pick from.

Just for kicks, I try Platteville (970 area code) and Keenesburg (720). Keenseburg has more options, but I try one last search for 303. Yields nothing.

Denver Sullivan it is. I pick 720.900.2313 bc it’s close to Boulder Beat’s P.O. Box 21315

I put in my actual phone number, get a verification code, input it and voila. I have a google voice number

10:42 .m. 

Quick detour to change my email signature, and have a friend test the new Google voice number

It works! 

10:51 a.m.

Now it’s back to the state website to put my phone number in. Gotta find my registration again. 

This is where I get a little lost. I don’t know where to add it. I first head to “edit” my voter registration data. I need my driver’s license for this.

That works! It gets me exactly where I need to be. Turns out, I DO have a phone number on record, so this was all for naught. But not if it helps my readers!

I’ll switch that out to the Google Voice number later; now I want to use Boulder’s site.

10:55 a.m.

Ok, when I hit “next” on the state website, it turns out my phone number wasn’t in the right format (XXX-XXX-XXXX) so that may be why it wasn’t working. I also might not be able to sign a Boulder petition until that phone number registers (in 2-4 days, according to the city’s disclaimer.)

I finish the “application” process — it’s an official thing to update voter records — and the state website says allow 72 hours to make that official through the county clerk and recorder.

There’s nothing I can do now but wait.


Attempt 2 – Friday, Jan. 29
1:57 p.m.

I go back to BDDO, attempt to login. Use my Voter Registration ID, copied down from yesterday.

Success! I have an option to call or text the code to my cell phone, which updated Wednesday. A few seconds later, I have it. I have to confirm my current residential address, then I’m in.

There’s currently only one petition up — the test one. Clicked on it. 

Clicking “Petition Voter Info,” I can see a full list of everyone who endorsed and when. (32 people at the time)

Vani Katta (city’s Chief Technical Officer) is the earliest date I see: Jan. 14. Then City Attorney Tom Carr and Francis Duffy (an IT assistant) on Jan. 15. Everyone else is between Jan. 22 and today

2:02 p.m.

I click “Endorse this petition.” I have to check a box certifying that my info is accurate (name and partial address)

There’s a warning that I can’t undo my endorsement. Another button to click. And that’s it; I’ve signed.

The total count updated automatically (33 signatures at the time) and I see the petition expires today. 

All done by 2:03 p.m.

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

Want more stories like this, delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up for a weekly newsletter from Boulder Beat.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: