Two years ago I wrote a 2018 guide to voting in Colorado for friends and family.
This time I decided to do it again. It’s not so much that I think I'll persuade anyone, it just might be handy, and it's a way for me to organize my own thoughts.
There are plenty of handy voting guides by really great journalists, but they are all so objective. I don’t want a guide with a lot of pros and cons, I just want the recommendations with maybe a bit of background. So, that’s what I have created here.
The ballot is looooong and full of traps, so let's get to it:
When Trump was first running, I knew I needed to be against him. I knew he was a film flam man, something I learned in my days at Spy Magazine, but the man wasn’t the reason that I needed to oppose him.
The thing that convinced me to oppose him wasn't him, it was us.
In February of 2016, way before it was a sure thing that he would get the nomination, a bunch of white Catholic school kids taunted Hispanic Catholic school kids by chanting “Build a wall!”
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in us.
Even early on we could see that Trump would incite whomever he needed to in order to make a buck. And too many of us were way too easy to nudge over into violence, racism, misogyny and hatred.
I never would have imagined that Trump would stand on a debate stage and tell domestic terrorists to “Stand By” but that speaks to about our collective failure to imagine how bad things can get.
How much worse can things get? Let’s not find out. Vote Trump out, and don’t be cute about it voting for some third party. Not this year. Vote for Biden. Seriously.
It is WAY too easy to get on the ballot to run for president in Colorado. Yes, Republican apparatchiks engineered Kanye West onto the ballot for reasons that would make Machiavelli squirm.
But I was fascinated by all the other names and parties. Is there really a Prohibition Party? Yes, and it is actually the oldest third-party currently active in the U.S. In addition to all the other reasons to not to support this, I would not have made it this far in 2020 without some pretty serious alcohol consumption.
Also, we have a candidate by the name of Princess Khadijah Maryam Jacob-Fambro? And what would appear to be her VP pick (and father?) Khadijah Maryam Jacob Sr.? They are only on the ballot in four states. How is it Colorado makes it so easy?
But... one potential silver lining: My son keeps telling me that we should use ranked choice voting. If we had that I could rank Trump as 21st out of 21 candidates. Or I could write my dog in, and rank Trump 22nd out of 21.
U.S. Senate, U.S. House, State Board of Education, etc.
You don’t need me to tell you how to vote on these. Just be sure to vote.
RTD Director District A
Look, this is a long ballot, we gotta make decisions quickly, and move on. The Denver Post sent questionnaires to the three candidates, and only one answered all the questions. Tim Nelson gets my vote.
Two years ago I remember finding one that just barely got a recommendation from the poo-bahs that give out recommendations, and I urged a no vote.
This time there’s one judge that seemed to just squeak by, but I think we should vote for him. One of the big complaints about Barry A. Schwartz is that he has a “bias in favor of parties who represent themselves.” So... Lemme see if I got this straight: A bunch of lawyers say that they don’t like a judge because he is generous with people who don’t use a lawyer?
That makes me a yes on Barry Schwartz, along with all the other judges on my ballot in Denver.
Amendment B, Repeal Gallagher
This is one that has had so much written about it. I have read a lot of the coverage, and at the end of the day I am a yes on B vote.
It does not give me joy, as Dennis Gallagher is a prince of a man, and I have all the respect in the world for him.
But at the end of the day we live in a representative democracy, and I think our elected officials should be making the decisions, not a maze of constitutional amendments.
Amendment C, Charitable Gaming
My antenna were all the way up for this one. Along with the incomparable Jon Anderson, I ran an effort to stop big gambling from expanding in Colorado. We were outspent something like $9,000,000 to $15. We lost, but not by much considering how radically we were outspent.
This one “modernizes” the law around Bingo. That sounds like an oxymoron to me. Are they also going to modernize the law regarding using leeches to cure disease?
We now have legal gambling 24/7, and legal sports betting. The Bingo lobby (there’s a lobby for everything) says they need this change to keep up.
Maybe they do, but I don’t care. If nonprofits are relying on Bingo money to stay afloat, maybe their time has come.
This will probably win, so whatever, but I’m voting NO on C.
Amendment 76 - Citizenship To Vote
The only reason this is on the ballot is because of two people, one of whom is the co-chair of Women for Trump 2020. The other is her husband. So, not a great start.
Does the idea have merit?
The language makes it impossible for local jurisdictions to change current voting rules. One idea floating around out there is that 16- and 17-year-olds should get to vote on school board members. I've heard worse ideas. That becomes impossible if this passes.
And as the title implies -- and we can figure out from the sponsors -- this is really an anti-immigrant shell game.
Hard pass. Vote No on Amendment 76.
Amendment 77, Local Voter Approval of Bet Limits
See above for my history with fighting Big Gambling. I’m a hard “No” on this one from the start.
What really irks me is the wrapping of Local Control like a bow on the initiative.
The three mountain towns that have gambling have been decimated. This was originally sold as a way to inject a little fun into the mom-and-pop businesses in these historic towns. Well, all the small businesses have been bulldozed. The only thing left are wage-earners working for Las Vegas mega-corporations.
Calling this local control is like saying that the peacocks should run the zoo. That sounds great for the peacocks, but not so great for people, or for the other animals.
Really, if I wasn’t so busy I would be out there fighting this one, but as it is I am just going to say that other than the presidential election, this may be the most consequential item on the Colorado ballot.
For all that is good and just... please Vote No on Amendment 77.
Proposition EE - Taxes on Nicotine
Really, you had me at the title.
Is the money going to a good cause? Pre-school. Yes, that’s great. If you dumped the money in a hole, I’d probably still vote yes.
I actually saw one of the ads by the tobacco lobby urging a no vote. The ad essentially said that this was just a tax increase, and then in dark tones said that it was crafted behind closed doors and that in the room were lobbyists from Big Tobacco.
Imagine the gall it would take to try to use Big Bad Tobacco as a reason to vote... in the way that Big Tobacco wants you to vote.
Anyway, this isn’t even a close call: Vote Yes on EE.
Proposition 113 - Electoral College
I gotta admit, I was a bit torn on this. We’ve had the electoral college for a long time, and I don’t like fiddling with things that have been around since the founding days without a good reason.
Also, I like the idea of the smaller states getting a little bit of a boost.
But then two things persuaded me to go the other way.
First is the history. There is no other way to read it: The electoral college was created as an appeasement to the states where slavery was legal. If the northern states had not capitulated on this, think of how much different history might have been.
Second is Trump’s strutting with the electoral college map from 2016. I get that small states need power, but people have power. Not land. People.
Hard to get more fundamental than the notion that one person gets one vote. Vote Yes on Prop 113.
Proposition 114 - Gray Wolves
Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash
This one is going to thoroughly annoy a lot of people I once liked and respected when I worked for the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Owens, but I’m voting yes here.
Sorry if this makes things harder for ranchers and hunters, but I don’t think it actually will. The data from states like Montana that have Gray Wolf populations show that ranchers and outfitters do just fine.
I do not like that we have to vote on crap like this. I wish the people on the various commissions and in the legislature would stop being so pig-headed and actually reach compromises so that activists don’t feel a need to go to the ballot. But they didn’t, so here we are.
I am a proud West Slope native, and it pains me to do anything that could be perceived to be anti-rural. But I think that is all that it is: perception. I am voting yes on prop 114.
Proposition 115, Late-term abortion
Did you know that abortions went down during Obama’s time in office? It’s true. They also went down before him, and they’ve been going down since.
Science, medicine and public health are all moving in a direction that abortion is more rare than it has been in decades.
And public opinion on the topic of banning abortion is also steadily dropping.
So, this one is going to lose, but there’s nothing I could say here that will sway anyone one way or the other, so I’ll just say that I will proudly be voting for devout Catholic Joe Biden and I will be voting no on Prop 115.
Proposition 116 - Income Tax Reduction
FREE MONEY!!! I'm voting yes, right?
A bunch of conservatives are for this, and Gov. Jared Polis is kinda sorta for it.
Some liberals are against it. Cutting your nose to spite your face, etc.
My take: Why the heck is this on the ballot?!?!?!? Didn’t we elect people to do this?
Why yes, yes we did. They should do the legislating, and we here at home should elect people to do that. For that reason alone, I’m a no vote on Prop 116.
Proposition 117 - State Enterprises
Again here: This is the opposite of representative democracy. This one says that we should take a tool out of the hands of legislators and give it to the voters. Just think, the ballot could be even longer and more complicated!!!
No. No way. Hard pass. Vote No on Prop 117.
Proposition 118 - Paid Family and Medical Leave
I started three businesses in Colorado. One of the hardest things to do is attract and retain great employees. Sometimes to do that we compete with companies in what we might call the costal elites, states like California, Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, etc.
All those states have a paid family and medical leave. If we want to compete, we need this program.
Again, lawmakers should have just done this, and not forced us, the voters, to do it. That almost tipped me to being a no vote. But in the end what won the day was the need for us to be competitive combined with the basic humanity of figuring out a system where human beings can take paid time off for legitimate family or medical reasons.
I am voting yes on Prop 118
These will only be of interest for my fellow citizens of the City and County, but here goes:
2A - Climate Funding
Look, I have made, as one friend called it, a “slide” to the left. The Trump era has absolutely pushed me in a more liberal direction.
But I have limits. Money for climate change? I’m not opposed right out of the box, but when it is just for Denver (not the suburbs where, frankly, we have a lot more work to do) and when it is poorly defined (what exactly is a “climate justice program”?) then it is a lot harder to convince me.
But when it is a sales tax, a tax that falls mostly on those who can least afford it, sorry, but you lost me.
I'm a NO vote on 2A.
2B - Homelessness
Like the last one, this starts out with a strike against it because it is a sales tax, putting the burden on the poorest taxpayers. I suppose that is ameliorated to some degree by the fact that a lot of people from the suburbs come to Denver to shop, or they did before Covid and I hope they will again.
This also bothers me that we have to vote on it. It seems like the kind of thing that our elected officials should just be doing.
But all that said, a big reason for homelessness is... not enough homes. The suburbs grow endlessly out, and the amount of housing in the city just can’t keep up. Young people move to the city, which is great, but they take up housing, and drive prices up. That's generally a good thing, but it leaves those on the margins squeezed out.
Unlike the 2A, the money spent goes to something super specific: More housing. You want fewer people to experience homelessness? Make more homes.
So I will be voting Yes on 2B (or not to be.)
2C - Professional Services
Thank The Maker for good journalists. This write-up was excellent, and shows that this is not what it appears to be (a way to enrich consultants) but is in fact a way to have another check between Denver's executive and legislative branches.
Silly that it needs a vote of the people, but here we are. Yes on 2C.
2D - DOTI Advisory Board
There are a shocking number of boards and commissions in local and state government. Do we really need another?
Well, in this case, I suppose so. Not sure why we have to vote on a board for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, DOTI, when the city had the power to create DOTI. You have the power to make a department, but not the power to make an advisory board for the department?
(And doesn't DOTI sound, I dunno, a bit dotty?)
Yes on 2D, and don’t ask me to be on the board unless you want me ranting about better bike lanes at every single meeting.
2E - Council Approve Mayoral Appointments
Just reading the title of this you can figure exactly what is going on. The mayor and the council are having issues. (It sounds funnier if you pronounce it like KISS-yous.)
The council is for this. The mayor is against it.
The problem is that even if you like one side or the other better at the moment, this thing is going into the city charter, and then we’ll be stuck with it.
It’s a stressful year, everyone. How about if you just all go sit and watch Terms of Endearment or Field of Dreams or some other tearjerker movie, have a good cry, and hug it out.
Until then, I’m voting no on 2E.
2F - Council Meetings
Ahh, the classic “Outdated language” thing we have to fix every four years.
This time it’s about the way meetings are held. Fine, fix it.
And as a bonus, they are amending the language so the next time someone finds some “outdated language” they can fix it themselves and not put it on the ballot. Hallelujah!
Yes on 2F
2G - Council Budgeting Authority
This one looks boring, but it turns out that it is part II of the feud between the mayor and the council.
Really, time for you people to work your crap out, and not try to have the voters fix your contretemps.
Vote no on 2G.
2H - Municipal Broadband
Typically we see this kind of thing in small towns with crappy or no internet. Denver is neither. We have two providers that suck in some typical ways, but are basically fine. They also both have low-income solutions so people can get broadband at home for $10/month.
2H doesn’t actually create city broadband as a service, it just makes it possible that they can come back on some future ballot and create one. Oh, joy.
Until then, OK. Whatever. Jeesh. We’re all exhausted here. Yes on 2H.
2I - Clerk's Appointees
For the love of all that is holy, make this stop!
Are you kidding me? We really need to vote on this?
Apparently so, and maybe it is a good thing if anyone still has enough energy to vote on this. Turns out the current clerk is on something of a power grab, and wants the head of elections working for him. A former head of elections thinks that is a bad idea.
I don’t know who is right, but given that the last few elections in Denver have gone pretty well, I think we should just leave things the same. No on 2I.
2J - Pit Bulls
Sorry. I can’t even...
Looks like the current law works fine. Council could have fixed this if there was something really broken, and didn’t. If the pit bull people can’t convince the council, they can’t convince me, either. No on 2J.
4A and 4B - Denver Public Schools Mill Levy
Ahhh, one ballot item that feels familiar: A school bond issue.
This is going to pass no matter what I say, Denver voters love them some school bond issues.
Back before Covid I would volunteer once a week in the Newcomers class, and soak up as much of the vibe as I could. I'm also a DPS parent.
I know that volumes get written about schools every day, and there's not much interesting that I could add, but I will say that in general DPS is a pretty well-run operation tackling incomprehensibly difficult challenges. If they say this is what they need, fine. Yes on 4A and 4B.
It is an absolute privilege to be able to vote in free and fair elections. In Denver, it is also a stinking lot of work. Hope this made it a little easier for you.