Allow ONLINE petitioning for ballot initiatives!

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(Technical details below the petition)

Whereas:

1. A great deal of what makes Boulder great was accomplished by ballot initiative, including the nation's first voter-approved open space tax, height limits, slow growth, the nation's first gay rights law and public campaign financing.

2. Use of Boulder's initiative process has fallen off, with only 3 initiatives passed by voters in 20 years, public campaign financing in 1999 and Council term limits and the sugary drink tax in 2016, while Colorado has outdone itself in the same period with 13 important initiatives, including  Amendment 27, one of the country's strictest campaign finance limits, Initiative 37, the country's first renewable energy mandate, Amendment 41, the country's strongest Ethics in Government law, and Amendment 64, the country's first legal marijuana and hemp.

3. Boulder's ballot initiative signature requirements are much higher proportionately than Colorado's or Denver's and a more difficult process favors those with more time or money. This is unfair to, among others, Boulder's most important "product": college graduates saddled with debt and paying Boulder rent. Why should anybody spend our time begging for signatures in hot parking lots in the 21st century?

4. It takes only 25 signatures to qualify as a City Council candidate, compared to signatures of 5% of registered city voters to qualify an Initiative for the Boulder ballot. As John Adams said, we want a "government of laws and not of men." A government of ideas, not dominated by personalities.

5. The Deputy City Attorney presented this statement to City Council April 17th (video):

"The 11 members of the City of Boulder's Campaign Finance and Elections working group unanimously support establishing a mechanism for municipal ballot initiatives that allows for online access to read the petition and allows for online "signing" (via electronic identity verification). The clear benefits of online access and signing include:
* access to and by a broader population of voters
* heightened integrity of the petition "signing" process and greater security than current physical signing process
* the opportunity to read the the full text of petition language before signing
* improved efficiency, and reduced burden on administrative staff
* the ability to sign at any time from any place
* the ability to un-sign prior to the petition signing deadline"

We would add that online petitioning will mean much fewer paid petitioners, with less problems with petitioners misrepresenting petitions, harassing people to make more money, or outright forging signatures as happened in Boulder in 2016. 

6. Plan Boulder, which spearheaded the first 2 Boulder initiatives listed in number 1., has endorsed online petitioning as have the Boulder County Democrats, the Rocky Mountain Peace  and Justice Center, Our Revolution Boulder, and East Boulder County United. We solicit your organization's endorsement too! You can contact organizer Evan Ravitz at eravitz@gmail.com 

THEREFORE,

The signers of this petition request that Boulder City Council submit a City Charter Amendment to the voters this November allowing or requiring Council to implement online petitioning by ordinance. 

City Council is holding a public hearing on this and other issues for the ballot August 14th, starting about 7:30. Please come and speak for up to 3 minutes or raise your hand in support. 1777 Broadway at Canyon upstairs. If you sign the petition we'll send you updates. 

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Background:

Boulder is a high-tech town and its citizens want to know why online petitioning will be more secure than the current system of having temporary workers hired by the city clerk examine physical signatures:

With old petitions such as Boulder 2016 term limits initiative petitions (pdf) online anyone can find names, addresses and signatures to copy for forgery on paper petitions.

Our model is the Secretary of State's (SOS) website GoVoteColorado.com, which lets you look at anyone's registration using their name, zip code and birthdate. You can change your own party or address by also giving your Colorado ID or last 4 digits of your SSN. This is comparable to how you ID yourself for financial transactions.

If the current SOS ID system is good enough to register to vote, or to change your party or address, it's good enough to sign a petition.

Many people think that signing petitions online is like online voting, which most experts believe is insecure with the internet as it is. The difference is that voting is secret ballot, while petitions are public record, as the link to old petitions above shows.

Signing a petition is much more like a financial transaction, with the parties identified. Our proposal is more secure and also fail-safe: You would be able to view which petitions you signed, just like you can view your party and address. In the database, there'd be a column for every petition, just like there are now columns for name, address, party, etc. You could change your 'yes' or 'no' anytime before the deadline.

The Secretary of State's website could be augmented to implement this, or the City website could host our subset of the State's registration database, synchronized to the State database regularly. Denver's app that lets petition passers hand you an iPad to sign is similarly synchronized to the State database. Our proposal lets anyone use any device anywhere and no signature is necessary, just like none is necessary to open an online bank account, etc.

Please forward this petition to Boulder groups, and other groups with an interest in better direct democracy. You can also email Boulder City Council and tell them why you support online petitioning: council@bouldercolorado.gov

Democratic candidates for Secretary of State Jenna Griswold says she'll work for this on the state level if elected. 

16 of the 24 States with ballot initiatives also have online voter registration, so this could quickly expand from Boulder and bring direct democracy into the 21st century across the country, finally!



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