Voter 101

Cheslyn Johnson, 9, casts her first-ever allot Nov. 6 during a Kids Election Day party at the Sand Creek Library in Southeast Colorado Springs. [Express photo/file]

A user’s guide to the 2019 Colorado Springs election

It’s time for the municipal election — another opportunity to choose the city’s leaders. The Colorado Springs clerk mailed more than 200,000 ballots to registered active city voters in mid-March, allowing them to decide who, of 11 candidates for City Council and four hopefuls for mayor, is the best qualified, and whether the local firefighters’ union should have the power to collectively bargain with municipal leaders. 

Don’t toss out that ballot with the junk mail. Instead consider this: Municipal government has the most direct day-to-day impact on your life. These are the people who set the city code that determines things like how close to the street you can build, how fast you can drive, even how many pets you can have — and what kinds. City leaders determine how the budget will be allocated. And local elections set the tax rates to build budgets in the first place. 

So it’s critical that all registered voters participate in the process. But lately people in Southeast Colorado Springs’ District 4 haven’t voted in large numbers. City records show that in 2017, Southeast voters cast 5,751 ballots. That compares to 9,762 in the city’s next-lowest-participating district (6) and 14,457 (5), 15,504 (1) and 15,706 (4) for the remaining competitive districts. District 2 was uncontested.

Voting matters, so let’s get you up to speed on who’s running, what the ballot question means and how you can make your opinions heard. 

— Regan Foster

WHO’S ON DECK?

Springs voters will have the chance to choose three at-large City Council members and the mayor. It’s a busy ballot this year: 11 are vying for Council, while four are making their bids for the city’s CEO. 

Here’s who you will see on the Council ballot, listed in the order in which they appear: Gordon Klingenschmitt, Bill Murray, Val Snider, Wayne Williams, Tony Gioia, Terry Martinez, Regina English, Tom Strand, Randy Tuck, Athena Roe and Dennis Spiker. 

And here’s who is making the bid for the mayor’s seat: Lawrence Joseph Martinez, John Suthers, John Pitchford and Juliette Parker. 

Council members and mayor all serve four-year terms, and represent the entire city. 

Source: coloradosprings.gov/election

ORDER! ORDER!

So, clearly the candidates are not listed in alphabetical order. What gives?

The sequence in which those names appear is based on, in essence, a lottery. 

Just to make it onto the ballot, the hopefuls had to gather 100 or more signatures from registered city voters, complete an affidavit of independent candidacy and a disclosure of substantial private business interests, and get the whole packet back to the city clerk by Jan. 22. 

Once the clerk confirmed the paperwork was good to go, a drawing took place to determine the ballot order. 

So, the ballot order was totally happenstance. Which is why it’s important to go through the entire list to find the candidates you think best represent your vision for the city’s future. 

Source: coloradosprings.gov/election

Lately people in Southeast Colorado Springs’ District 4 haven’t voted in large numbers. City records show that in 2017, Southeast voters cast 5,751 ballots. That compares to 9,762 in the city’s next-lowest-participating district (6) and 14,457 (5), 15,504 (1) and 15,706 (4) for the remaining competitive districts. District 2 was uncontested.

WHAT’S THAT QUESTION? 

Page two of the ballot asks voters a question on behalf of the local firefighters. It’s long and unwieldy and full of jargon, but it is important. 

It’s asking voters whether the firefighters union should have the right to enter into collective bargaining on issues like wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions. It’s worth noting that state law prohibits firefighters from striking, and that the measure only applies to sworn firefighters — not the captain, his direct reports or the civilian support staff. 

In the case that the union and city couldn’t reach an agreement, the initiative requires they would go to arbitration. And if that doesn’t work, then the issue at impasse would go to the voters in a special election, to be paid for by the party that won’t budge.

A “yes” is a vote in favor of collective bargaining.

Union advocates say a “yes” vote would ensure the firefighters have a place at the negotiation table, regardless of who holds the mayor’s seat. As it stands now, they argue whenever the mayor or City Council changes, it changes the rank-and-file force members’ dynamic with the top brass. 

Opponents, meanwhile, worry that the measure would give disproportionate clout to just one sector of the city’s employees. They also point out that the firefighters have never been neglected in the budgeting process, and that more than 50 percent of the city’s annual expenditures go to first responders. 

Source: Interviews with the local firefighters union and opponents

DO I GET TO VOTE?

Let’s see … are you at least 18 years old or will you be by April 2? Are you an American citizen? And have you lived in the state since at least March 11?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, you are eligible to register to vote. 

Source: sos.state.co.us

SO HOW DO I DO THAT? 

There are a couple of different ways. If you already have a Colorado driver’s license or state ID card, you may register online at govotecolorado.com. This is also where registered voters can go to confirm that their registrations and relevant personal information — like their addresses or party affiliations — are correct. 

Registration forms are also available on the secretary of state’s website, sos.state.co.us; at the county clerk’s election website, epcvotes.com; and at federal post offices. You may mail, fax, or scan and email a completed and signed form back to the county clerk and recorder’s office.

If you prefer to register in person, you may do so at a state department of motor vehicles office (the nearest to Southeast of which is at 200 S. Cascade Ave.); at an armed forces recruitment office; at the El Paso County clerk’s office, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road, suite 2201; or via a voter registration drive. 

But make sure you act quickly. This municipal election, like all city elections since 2015, will be conducted via mail-in ballot only.

Sources: govotecolorado.com; epcvotes.com; colorado.gov; coloradosprings.gov/city-elections

CAST OFFS

Once your ballot is filled out and ready to be counted, then what? 

Obviously you can pop a stamp on the envelope and drop it in the mail, but again, mailer beware — it must be received by 7 p.m. on April 2 in order to be counted. 

If you’re too late, that’s OK. The city maintains a dozen drop boxes where you can safely and securely cast your vote. Here are the locations that are most conveniently located for Southeast residents, and the hours when they are available:

• Southeast & Armed Services YMCA, 2190 Jet Wing Drive: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 2

• El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Southeast – Powers Branch, 5650 Industrial Place: 24/7 through 7 p.m. April 2. 

• The City Clerk’s Office, 30 S. Nevada Ave.: 24/7 through 7 p.m. April 2. 

Source: coloradosprings.gov/city-clerk/page/voter-information

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.