By Matt Benjamin
It started with the desire to reduce Boulder’s growing political polarization, to create more inclusion for marginalized people and groups who don’t participate in our local government, and ultimately to give more voice and more choice to voters. Our Mayor-Our Choice was born out of this idea to strengthen our local democratic process as democratic structures are bearing their weaknesses at all levels of government.
Ballot Issue 2E is straightforward. Do Boulder’s voters want to elect our mayor? And do voters want to elect our mayor using ranked choice voting (instant runoff)?By far, the overwhelming percentage of people I talked to while collecting signatures this summer said “absolutely.” (After they said, “Wait, we don’t already?”) By electing our mayor, Boulder voters will have a say in who is leading our City Council and will hold that person accountable.
Why is Boulder the largest city in Colorado that does not elect its mayor? Appointing the mayor is typically something only small towns do. The next largest city that does this has close to 60,000 people, about half of our population. It’s long past time Boulder operate like the biggest little city that we are.
Coupling this vote with ranked choice voting allows us to produce elections without the pitfalls of our current election system, which is meant to keep those in power with the power. There is a reason that RCV is being rapidly adopted all over the county.
It provides voters with more voice and more choice. By ranking your preference of candidates, the winner has the true majority of support. We will no longer have to worry about like-minded candidates splitting the vote and thus having the winner represent a minority of voters.
Knowing that there’s a higher probability of being represented properly, we see that marginalized groups participate, and their voices are heard. Cities using RCV tend to see up to a 10 percent increase in voter turnout. For Boulder, that would mean roughly 3,500 more people joining our political discourse. Our society is better when more people are voting and a greater diversity of ideas are discussed.
Here is exactly what the Our Mayor-Our Choice ballot measure will do:
• Voters will get to vote for our mayor (starting in 2023)
• The mayor will serve two-year terms
• No person can serve as mayor for more than eight years
• The role of the mayor stays the same; the officeholder is a regular voting member of council
• The mayor and City Council elections will be held on odd years (like they are currently)
• The City Council will always be a body of nine people (eight council members and one mayor)
• Voters will use a form of ranked choice voting called “instant runoff”
• The winning candidate will need to get at least 50 percent of the votes to win
As with most initiatives, Our Mayor-Our Choice was brewing as the new year started. Through this process, our local election system failed to provide accurate rules for the groups that were trying to harness the will of the people and place measures on the ballot.
We, along with the council, will admit that the path to the ballot is not how any of us would like to see it happen in the future. But out of this messy and sometimes perilous journey, this ballot measure has done something only a few have ever done before it.
We gathered 5,800 signatures (during a pandemic when engagement was far lower than typical years) and we also had the support of a majority of the City Council. Our Mayor-Our Choice has also picked up a bunch of endorsements, such as the Boulder County Democratic Party, the Libertarian Party of Boulder County, the Boulder County Green Party, Better Boulder, Open Boulder, KC Becker, Judy Amabile, Ron Tupa, Callie Rennison, Leslie Smith, Linda Shoemaker, and many more. This is an unprecedented amount of support during unprecedented times.
Now is the time for Boulder residents to commit to being serious about increasing voter turnout, creating greater inclusion, reducing political polarization, and giving voters more voice. We encourage you to visit our website (https://www.ourmayor-ourchoice.org) to learn more about ranked choice voting and to support Boulder being a leader for election reform in Colorado. This November, vote “yes” on 2E.
Matt Benjamin is the campaign chair for Our Mayor-Our Choice and serves on the boards of directors for Garden to Table and Boulder Open Space Conservancy. He is a professional photographer and former astronomer at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium