Ballot question 2L – Clarification of Signatures for Petitions

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Friday, Sept. 24, 2021

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Ballot language

Shall Sections 38A, “Signatures required for referenda, initiatives and recall petitions,” 46, “Certificate of petition,” and 46, “Certificate of petition” of the Boulder City Charter be amended to clarify that the number of signatures for initiative, referenda and recall petitions are required to be registered electors of the city and the number of signatures of registered electors on a referendum petition must be at least ten percent of the average number of voters in the previous two municipal candidate elections consistent with other changes approved by the voters in 2018?

What it means

Three sections of the city charter govern how many signatures are required for referendum petitions. Two of them — Section 44 and Section 46 —  currently have conflicting requirements for how many signatures are needed to place a referendum on the ballot.

  • Section 44 requires 10% of the average number of people who voted in the last two city council candidate elections 
  • Section 46 requires 10% of registered voters at the time the referendum is filed

This ballot measure would amend Section 46 to match Section 44, so that the required number of signatures equals 10% of the average number of voters who cast a ballot in the last two city council candidate elections. 

Section 38, which references referendum signatures as well, would be amended to simplify wording: “Average number of registered electors who voted in the previous two municipal candidate elections” would become “average number of voters in the previous two municipal candidate elections”

What’s a referendum?

A referendum is a chance for voters to reject a legislative measure newly passed by city council or the state legislature. People can petition for the opportunity to put the law to a vote, where the community as a whole can decide to keep or discard it.

Learn more: Boulder 101: Local Gov’t (Direct Democracy)

Who is supporting

There is no formal group backing this measure, which was brought forward by city staff and council.

Who is opposed

There is no formal opposition to this measure.

Why you might want to vote for this

This measure reflects changes to signature thresholds that were approved by voters in 2018, after a citizen working group researched the topic and recommended new limits. Referenda are currently governed by the language in Section 44; amending Section 46 would simply remove the conflict. 

This would make citizen referenda less likely to be challenged in court. It also aligns with the intent of the voter-approved changes to require fewer signatures.

For example:

3,337 signatures are required for a referendum in 2021, following Section 44 

2017: 31,765 voters cast ballots
2019: 34,971 voters cast ballots
Average = 33,368
10% of 33,368 = 3,337

6,868 signatures would be needed under Section 46*

2021: 68,683 registered voters
10% of 68,683 = 6,868

*This would change depending on the day the referendum is filed. The figure being used here is for Thursday, July 29, 2021. 

Why you might not want to vote for this

Some people believe direct democracy should have a higher barrier, given voters’ propensity for approving ballot measures. If you think referenda should require more signatures rather than fewer, you might not be a fan of this. 

However, a “no” vote on this doesn’t result in higher limits. It just leaves conflicting rules in the charter.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

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