I'm Ellie Mulder, a reporter for The Gazette, Colorado Springs’ daily newspaper, here to talk about how, when and why to vote Nov. 6.
I'm sure you’ve been inundated by unsolicited texts, calls and a deluge of sponsored social media posts from candidates this fall. You’ve probably seen your friends post selfies with “I voted” stickers or read articles about Taylor Swift finally getting political. It’s been an overwhelming few weeks.
But here are a few tips that I hope will help you wade through the sea of information and figure out how you want to vote. (And you really should vote.)
YOU STILL CAN REGISTER
Colorado lets you register even on Election Day. Visit GoVoteColorado.com to check your voter registration status and see where you can drop your ballot or vote in person.
Those who don’t get a ballot or need a replacement should visit one of the county’s voter service centers, where they can pick up a ballot, register or vote in person. For center sites, visit epcvotes.com.
If you haven't yet mailed in your ballot, take it to one of El Paso County’s drop-off boxes, open 24 hours every day till 7 p.m. Nov. 6, when voting ends. Don't mail them, because they might not be received by the deadline.
Each El Paso County ballot has two pages featuring a slew of candidates and state and local measures. Sample ballots are available online.
If you got your ballot, you might have stared at it, feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to learn about each issue and candidate. (Trust me, you aren't alone.)
The Gazette’s Voters Guide is extensive, but here are a few highlights:
Voters will choose from very different candidates for governor.
Democrat Jared Polis, who would be the country’s first openly gay and Jewish governor, has promised universal health care, free pre-school and kindergarten for all, and a ban on sales of “bump stocks” that let semi-automatic weapons fire rapidly and repeatedly. He opposes using local and state governments to enforce federal immigration policy.
Republican Walker Stapleton wants to dismantle Colorado’s Affordable Care Act health exchange and rein in Medicaid costs. He also would like to repeal the state’s 2013 gun-control laws and let teachers carry firearms. And he supports President Donald Trump’s proposal to withhold tax dollars from so-called sanctuary cities.
(Those are only a few of the issues. Learn more about where each stands on energy, transportation and more here.)
A QUICK Q&A
What does the governor do? He enforces state laws and can approve or veto bills passed by the state Legislature. Like Congress, the Legislature has a House of Representatives (with 65 members) and Senate (with 35). This election, you can vote for one representative and one senator to advocate for you and your neighbors at the Capitol in Denver for the next two years.
(Wondering which House and Senate districts you live in? Find them here. And head to the candidates page of The Gazette’s Voters Guide to learn who’s competing for your district’s seat.)
But who represents Colorado's interests in Washington, D.C.? U.S. Sens. Michael Bennett, Democrat, and Cory Gardner, Republican, plus Colorado's seven House representatives.
If you live in Colorado Springs, you’re in U.S. House District 5, covering El Paso, Teller, Chaffee and Fremont counties, as well as part of Park County.
That seat now is held by Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. His challenger is the Rev. Stephany Rose Spaulding, a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. If elected, she would be the first Democrat, first woman and first African-American to hold the seat.
Lamborn has served seven terms, and Spaulding's challenge is a long shot because the district is largely conservative.
It’s important to choose the candidate who will best represent you, but control of Congress is also at stake. The seat plays a part in the Republican Party’s quest to retain a majority in the U.S. House, which can advance or obstruct Trump’s agenda. If enough Democrats are elected to the House, the balance of power could shift, having a major effect on the rest of Trump's first term as president.
Each state and local ballot measure is explained in The Gazette’s Voters Guide. For a breakdown of the 13 statewide ballot initiatives, with arguments for and against, read the state’s “Blue Book” here.
But these are a few to watch for:
Proposition 112 would establish a 2,500-foot setback between occupied buildings and new oil and gas development, up from current 500-foot buffer from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. It's one of the most controversial measures this year if the massive spending against it by the oil and gas industry is any indication.
Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy has raised $33.3 million from that industry since Jan. 1, most of it to fight Proposition 112. The measure is backed by Colorado Rising for Health and Safety, which also opposes Amendment 74, seen as a response to 112. The group raised $812,000 as of Sept. 26, with large donations from the Washington, D.C.-based Food and Water Watch.
The oil and gas industry claims the measure would devastate the industry and the state economy; proponents claim the setback is based on health and safety studies.
Amendment 74 would require state or local governments to reimburse property owners when new regulations lower property values. Its public face is the Colorado Farm Bureau, but the real power and money comes from the oil and gas industry, which has put $3 million into the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage.
The measure is opposed by the Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Counties Inc., Club 20, Action 22 and a host of other civic organizations. The Save Our Neighborhoods committee has raised $1.2 million, mostly from groups such as Conservation Colorado and the League of Conservation Voters.
Amendment 74 is seen as a counterpoint to Proposition 112. Neither measure mentions the other. But if both pass, oil and gas companies presumably could sue if they couldn't develop their mineral holdings because of the new buffers, reports coloradopolitics.com.
Amendments Y and Z address how the state draws its congressional and legislative districts. The Legislature now does so, prompting court battles in which judges eventually drew the district boundaries after the 2000 and 2010 censuses.
Amendment Y pertains to congressional districts, especially important because Colorado likely will add an eighth congressional seat after the 2020 census. Amendment Z applies to the district boundaries for the state's 35 Senate and 65 House seats.
Each amendment would empanel a dozen commissioners to redraw the districts. Four members would be from the largest political party and four from the second largest. The other four would be unaffiliated. Under both measures, eight of the 12 commissioners would have to approve new district boundaries.
Transportation is at issue in the Nov. 6 election, too.
Proposition 109 would direct the state to raise $3.5 billion in bonds for 66 identified highway projects. The bonds would be repaid with state revenues, up to $250 million per year. Its primary backer and funder, to the tune of $305,000, is the Independence Institute, which doesn’t disclose its donors.
Opponents say the measure would force the state to take money from education, health care and other essentials when another recession hits.
Proposition 110, an alternative to 109, would increase the state sales tax by 6 cents on a $10 purchase and use that revenue to finance $6 billion of the state’s $9 billion transportation wish list, for about 137 projects. Proponents say the measure would create a long-term funding solution for transportation. Opponents, including the Independence Institute, say a tax increase is unnecessary and has the biggest impact on low-income people.
Coloradans for Coloradans has raised $5.3 million to combat Proposition 109 and to back Proposition 110. Their donors include the construction and real estate industries.
DID YOU KNOW?
Amendment A is a second try to remove language in the Colorado Constitution that allows slavery as punishment for a crime. A similar measure in 2016 lost by only six-tenths of 1 percent, about 16,000 votes short of 2.5 million votes cast.