Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021 (Updated Friday, Nov. 5)
By 9 p.m. on election night, the mood was good at a watch party for candidates endorsed by PLAN and Safer Boulder, et al. Speeches had been given and some attendees — future, former and current elected officials, mostly — had wandered over to the Coalition party a few blocks away.
There was reason to be hopeful. Three of the four PLAN/Safer candidates were in the top three spots, and the fourth was just 28 votes shy of earning a place on city council.
By Thursday night, one of those candidates was no longer in the running, another had dropped into third-to-last place, and the previous second-place finisher now earned a two-year term rather than a full four-year seat. Only the top vote-getter, incumbent Mark Wallach, was untouched.
Boulder city council
Mark Wallach: 17,468
Matt Benjamin: 16,279
Nicole Speer: 16,066
Lauren Folkerts: 15,545
Tara Winer: 15,025
Michel Christy: 14,375
Dan Williams: 13,432
Steve Rosenblum: 13,154
David Takahashi: 8,300
Jacques Decalo: 3,847
Did not earn a seat
The stark shift was somewhat unprecedented. In recent years, races have mostly been called the night-of. But this year, thousands of ballots continued to be counted Wednesday and Thursday, drastically changing the outcomes and setting Boulder up for its first modern progressive majority on city council — a body that has been dominated by slow-growth factions for nearly 40 years.
There are still votes to be counted. Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick on Friday evening tweeted that 480 ballots held in reserve will be counted, and an additional 572 ballots that need to be cured — that is, matched with signatures and/or identification — may be counted. Military and overseas ballots have until next Wednesday to arrive.
Processing will continue until Friday, Nov. 12, when another unofficial update will be posted. Results are not certified until Nov. 22.
Elections spokesperson Mircalla Wozniak on Wednesday wrote that vote counting was proceeding at a normal pace given the 45,000 ballots that were submitted countywide on Election Day.
“This is all pretty normal time frame for ballot processing, especially with the last minute flood of ballots,” Wozniak wrote in response to emailed questions, adding that there were “no staffing issues. Every election takes several days after election day to process the bulk of ballots.”
Late voters in Boulder clearly favored Coalition candidates, those endorsed by Boulder Progressives and the University of Colorado employee union, among other groups. Benjamin moved into second place and Speer into third, followed by Folkerts, who in the earliest returns sat at seventh out of 10 candidates. Williams also moved ahead of PLAN/Safer’s Rosenblum, though neither earned seats.
All four Coalition candidates campaigned on increased housing and services for the unhoused, as well as opposition to the city’s ban on sleeping in public places with tents, sleeping bags or blankets. They join fellow Coalition endorsees Aaron Brockett, Rachel Friend and Junie Joseph on city council, forming a non-PLAN majority for the first time in years. (Councilman Bob Yates was also not a PLAN endorsee, and instead campaigned with Coalition candidates in 2019, but this year allied with PLAN/Safer.)
“It’s a mandate,” said Benjamin at a Thursday evening watch party, “to get shit done and help people.”
Fur ban too close to call
Late voters also gave a boost to Bedrooms, a campaign that for two years has been seeking to loosen Boulder’s laws on unrelated adults living together. It wasn’t enough to overcome the initial 17.62-point deficit, though later returns shrank that to 4.9 points.
Bedrooms organizers conceded on Friday.
Ballot Question 302, another measure that started out as a citizen petition, also failed. Organizers of Let the Voters Decide on CU South annexation conceded to the Daily Camera on Wednesday night, saying their focus was moving to the in-process referendum to overturn city council’s Sept. 21 approval of annexation that added 308 acres into city limits, the site of an eventual southern CU campus and flood mitigation project.
A third petition-originated measure was the tightest race on Boulder ballots. The Humane Clothing Act, a ban on the sale and manufacture of certain animal products, is passing by 599 votes, having flipped from majority opposed to majority support on Thursday.
That gap, though slim, is not enough to trigger an automatic recount, according to election rules.
All other ballot measures passed handily, including a renewal of the Community, Culture, Safety and Resilience sales tax. The extension will raise some $200 million for infrastructure and arts over its 15-year lifespan.
Ballot Question 300 (Bedrooms Are For People)
Total ballots counted: 32,610
Ballot Question 301 (Fur ban)
Total ballots counted: 31,263
Ballot Question 302 (CU South)
Total ballots counted: 31,673
Ballot issue 2I (Community, Culture, Safety, Resilience tax extension)
Total ballots counted: 31,894
Ballot issue 2J (Debt related to tax extension)
Total ballots counted: 31,143
Ballot issue 2K (Council subcommittees)
Total ballots counted: 27,820
Ballot issue 2L (Petition signatures)
Total ballots counted: 30,005
Ballot issue 2M (Council pay schedule)
Total ballots counted: 30,275
— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle
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Elections Bedrooms Are For People Boulder Boulder Progressives city council city of Boulder CU South Dan Williams David Takahashi elections Humane Clothing Act Jacques Decalo Lauren Folkerts Mark Wallach Matt Benjamin Michael Christy Nicole Speer PLAN-Boulder Safer Boulder Steve Rosenbum Tara Winer The Coalition