Petition update

My Interview; Timeline of City obstruction of online petitions

Evan Ravitz
Boulder, CO, United States

Dec 15, 2019 — 

The video: I spoke 12/7/19 at the 7th Annual Election Reform Symposium in Denver. 

The Timeline:

This has been an unbelievable series of government against the people actions. This is why direct democracy was instituted starting around the beginning of the 20th century in 24 US states, to prevent the rich and powerful from controlling the government, as it seems here. So it's logical the rich and powerful oppose anything to make direct democracy easier. 

Hopefully it is understandable by outsiders. I'm happy to answer questions.

Phrases in quotes are subject lines of email threads, mostly of the City working group, that prove each point. Email and I'll forward the ones you want. 

2016: Amendment 71 passed, funded by $50 million from oil & gas, backed by all living former governors. It makes state Constitutional Amendment ballot initiatives much more difficult and expensive. 

2017: Boulder city attorney's office proposes ballot issue 2Q and tells city council and voters it's a charter cleanup. In spite of a warning from longtime former Councilman Steve Pomerance in the Camera, voters pass it. It messes up our City Charter's initiative, referendum and recall provisions, especially due dates for ballot language, signatures, etc., giving the City Manager command of them -and any appeal is to City Manager.

1/2018: City establishes Campaign Fnance and Elections working group to fix 2Q and campaign finance laws. The 11 members include two longtime council members, five Council candidates and five attorneys. Evan Ravitz gets the group to unanimously support having the city host an online petition system for ballot initiatives, referenda and recalls

6/8/2018 1st false report about working group to Council by staff.  "Draft first reading Ballot measure Council Materials:" Staff shows bias towards inferior tablet system (like Denver's eSign) and against true online petitioning. I, Pomerance and others ask staff to correct errors. They send it to Council with errors intact.

7/7/18   2nd false report to Council by staff  Evan sends blast email: "Staff AGAIN misrepresenting online petitioning facts in Council's agenda packet" Again, we ask for corrections but none are given.


8/10/18 Mayor Jones meets with Pomerance and I so Council meeting on the 14th is based on fact. 

8/14/18 Mayor pro-tem Brockett meets with Pomerance and I so Council meeting is based on fact. 

8/14/18 Council votes unanimously to put online and tablet petitioning on the ballot. 

10/5/18 Camera runs working group editorial for online petitions:


11/6/18. Voters approve issue 2G for online/tablet petitioning 71-29%

2/7/19, Assistant City Attorney David Gehr notifies working group of hearing about 2/19/19 1st reading of campaign Finance ordinance, but not about  2/19/19 first reading of ordinance to establish tablet system instead of online petitions, which is the same night. Evan misses first reading entirely.  City Clerk email affirms no notice given. (Except legal notice.) 
"Council Materials, Comments, and Schedule"

3/4/19 Maplight formally offers free open source software online petition system to Boulder. (Letter attached.) 

4/5/19 Evan calls Mayor. At council meeting, Boulder Democratic Socialists of America show up with garbage pickers, after cops pull guns on black man picking up garbage, and a very unusual council meeting ensues. Council over-rules staff after public hearing. They chose a real online system.

4/19/19 Pomerance letter re "2F vs 2G" Staff memo (attached) for 4/23/19 Council hearing  "Memo for 4/23 meeting re on-line petitioning" All members of the working group repudiate memo, which claims two of the working groups 3 ballot issues, which all passed overwhelmingly, are in conflict, and we must amend the Charter yet again, delaying online petitioning by a year. 

4/23/19 staff presents memo claiming working Group Issue 2F, requiring initiative signatures be compared to signatures on file, conflicts with our 2G, allowing for electronic signatures or endorsements, and asks Council to consider another Charter Amendment, delaying online petitioning by a year. Council dismisses it. (Memo attached; file name changed so I can find it.) 

5/14/19 Maplight President Dan Newman flies to Boulder to demonstrate this prototype of free system:

7/5/19 City announces RFP for online petitioning software. Now everything happens in secret, including rejecting Maplight's free offer. Pomerance later explains that RFPs are to prevent corruption. But a free offer can't results in kickbacks, so the city should have accepted and tested and tried the free system first. 

9/14/19 Camera story: Staff ask $400,000 in proposed new budget for online petition software, This is how we learn that staff has rejected the free offer. 

9/23/19 5 of 15 city council candidates co-sign a letter to City staff asking them to stop delaying online petitioning:

11/19 City Atty and City Mgr say it's not going to be open-source software, which means it would be less secure and reliable and unavailable to other cities or states to use without paying the vendor again. Only that vendor would be able to alter or maintain the system. 

11/19 Councilman Sam Weaver tells me the huge price is because system will use two-factor authentication. This is used for banking transactions and is overkill for petitioning. All 37 states allow you to register to vote for the rest of your life without it, and the National Conference of State legislatures recommends it only for administrative access to voting registration systems. 

11/19 Pomerance tells me City's two-factor authentication won't actually enhance security because, according to City IT director Julia Richman, people will have their email  or phone number "factors" stored on the SOS website, which doesn't have two-factor Authentication. So the SOS website is the weak link in the chain for hackers, rendering the two-factor authentication a false security, as well as expensive overkill and an inconvenience for people wanting to endorse petitions. 

12/12/19 Maplight explains that much of the extra expense is for an extensive workflow process, designed for the city to handle up to 50 petitions at once. This is superfluous to online petitioning and massive overkill as there are rarely more than several petitions and often none in a given year. Maplight promises a new free proposal, with simplified workflow, to be formally offer to the city on 12/16/19. Merry Christmas!

12/18/19 long disbanded working group reconvenes to talk with City IT director Julia Richman, with new council members Adam Swetlik and Rachel Friend, who signed the 9/23/19 letter to staff, attending. We learn:

1. Secretary of State Jena Griswold won't cooperate to give necessary database access, so we have to work through  Boulder County, which makes things more expensive and complicated and less secure. 

2. The city has already signed a contract for over $200,000 with, though City attorney Tom car told city council at the 12/3 meeting that no contract would be signed until after the working group meeting, cued up here:

3. The city is willing to renegotiate with Runbeck for open source software. 

I will update this page as the saga continues...



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