Colorado Election Day live blog

Not a lot of candidates, but key questions on dope, fracking, education, secession, election administration and clean-power generation that have drawn the eyes of the nation

Colorado Election Day live blog

 
*** 9:30 p.m. The proposed moratorium on fracking in conservative Broomfield was always going to be the real test on the oil-and-gas front tonight in Colorado. And right now, it’s still too close to call: 49.07 percent for the ban, 50.93 percent against — 7826 ayes and 8122 nays.

Conservatives on Twitter are already touting tonight as a victory against Democrats and John Hickenlooper in particular, because Democratic lawmakers and Hickenlooper supported Amendment 66. But Amendment 66 never had much of a chance to pass. It asked voters to approve a billion dollar tax hike. None of these officials stumped for it in any notable way. It was a moon shot. The fact that it cracked up in the sky will be seen as an expensive learning experience on a longer road. Indeed, that’s exactly how Hickenlooper described it at the 66 wake tonight. “Every great social victory…is based on a series of failures,” he said.

At least as significant as the 66 defeat, though, is the fact that half of the 11 angry rural-county secession proposals are also being defeated. And voters across the Front Range gas patch have rejected the heedless urban drilling boom embraced by nearly all of the state Republican officeholders — and Democrat Hickenlooper.

Indeed, the fracking bans may well spell more trouble for Hickenlooper than will Amendment 66. His administration is already suing Longmont to lift its ban. He may soon find himself at odds with residents on an issue that generates great passion in four of the more progressive small cities in the state: Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins and Lafayette.

Finally, that anyone even suspected Republican Party-backed school board members in deeply conservative Douglas County might be defeated by a movement of dissatisfied district parents highlights the extent to which Republicans feel embattled in Colorado.

Twitter is a great place for information. Less great for analysis.

–JT

*** 8:58 p.m. Press release grave dancing has started for doomed Amendment 66. “Now can we start the conversation of how to reform education without raising taxes?” writes Jon Caldara, head of the conservative-politics think tank Independence Institute, which chipped in the majority of money opposing the measure.

–JT

*** 8:40 p.m. Also unsurprising, major tax on marijuana sales passes with wide margin.

–JT

*** 8:22 p.m. With half the votes counted, Boulderites are solidly rejecting the Xcel initiative that seeks to put a brake on the city’s effort to take over power management and up the percentage of renewable energy its residents use. 65 percent are voting to go forward along the road to municipalization of the city utility.

Boulder is also unsurprisingly likely to extend its ban on fracking. 76 percent now notched in favor of the ban.

The Lafayette city limits ban on fracking is winning 57 percent to 42 percent.

–JT

*** 8:05 p.m. The Amendment 66 victory party isn’t.

amdt66

–TC

*** 8:02 p.m. We’re here at the Yes on 66 party, which turned out to be a No on 66 wake. It’s not over, but it’s over. Everyone in the know admits, off the record anyway, that Amendment 66 is going down to defeat, probably by a sizable number.

There’s not much of a crowd at the party, unless you count the media. It looks as if the only way to have won if you were rooting for A66 was to have taken the points. Many Republicans have been predicting a double-digit-point defeat. And that might have been conservative.

Latest number I saw was A66 losing 60-40.

–ML

*** 8:00 p.m. OK, results now rolling in, although it seems too early to call a lot of the key races. Amendment 66 is not one of those. The billion-dollar tax hike for schools may end up defeated by 20 points.

–JT

*** 4:00 p.m. Win or lose, the Amendment 66 experience has already plainly re-enforced a lesson political watchers have long known to be true: It costs a fortune to run a statewide ballot proposition on a major topic like education spending.

Another lesson: If state lawmakers have to run propositions like this every time they want to raise taxes, they will never raise taxes. Or put another way, if state lawmakers have to run propositions like this every time they want to try and convince Coloradans to consider the loathsome, ridiculous business of taxing themselves, they will never raise taxes. Or more succinctly: Lawmakers in Colorado will never raise taxes.

Ed News details the spending: $10 million from the pro-Amendment 66 camp and $35,000 or so from the opposition. Bill and Melinda Gates, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a charity founded by Steve Jobs’ widow and Colorado philanthropist Pat Stryker gave a lot of the money in support of the amendment. The free-market think tank Independence Institute gave a lot of the money used to oppose the amendment.

*** 3:20 p.m. It’s a pale fall day in Colorado and it looks like you’d expect November 5th to look in Wray, a town about 150-plus miles east from the Rocky Mountains and a 20-minute bike ride from the Nebraska border.

“It looks like, I dunno, Wyoming,” said Colorado Independent reporter Shelby Kinney-Lang, who’s there right now.

Wray is the seat of Yuma County. Kinney-Lang is there asking people about the Yuma proposition to secede from Colorado, which the residents are deciding on today.

“There’s not a lot of people. There’s a lot of pickups. When I ask about secession, women running the businesses on the main street in town tell me to ask their husbands.”

Look for a full Kinney-Lang dispatch from secession territory later.

wray

–JT

*** 2:20 p.m. As our secessionistas vote on whether to apply to secede from Colorado, you should know we’re not alone. According to the Washington Post, there are at least 11 other places that have grumbled about wanting to secede. Two (of course) in California.

Read more about it at the Post.

–ML

1:45 p.m. Dispatch from El Paso County.

Clerk Spokesman Ryan Parsell says that after a 9-foot-long slab of concrete fell off the facade of the Centennial polling center and Clerk’s office, temporarily closing the ballot drop-off point, and after Clerk Wayne Williams spent more than an hour testifying on the legality of his office’s approach to voter residency yesterday, the actual election there, so far, been a piece of cake.

“The mail’s gone out and come back,” said Parsell. “Voter participation has been about where we expected with all the publicity around the tax questions. We’ve seen a little bit more participation than the 2011 coordinated election and it looks like turnout will be on par with the recall election.”

About 18,000 El Paso voters out of 69,411, or 25 percent, turned out for September’s all in-person recall election.

Over the weekend, the office faced a libertarian lawsuit around voter residency requirements as they apply to state-wide, school district, and special district ballot measures.

“When 1303 (the Election Modernization Act) changed our state to same-day registration, it changed the deadline to be eligible to vote from 29 to 22 days before the election,” said Parsell. “It didn’t change some lesser known provisions for voting in school or special districts. For example to vote in school board elections you still have to live in the district for 25 days.”

Counties across the state took a variety of approaches to this issue but in El Paso, Williams’s office sent out about 1600 “self affirmation” letters to new voters asking when they’d moved to their district. Parsell said the court upheld that move, which allows the office to partially count ballots based on whether the voters are eligible in the district the measure applies to.

So aside from their latest foray to the courtroom, and a few hundred pounds of concrete crashing down around a ballot drop-off location, it’s all smooth sailing in El Paso.

“We’re not even getting the snow they promised us,” joked Parsell.

–TC

*** 1:30 p.m. So how are the elections running in HB 1303-era Colorado?

House Bill 1303, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, aimed to update elections in Colorado mostly by extending registration periods and shifting away from neighborhood in-person voting toward mail ballots and drop off centers. Republicans railed against it as a Democratic Party trojan horse meant to tilt elections, mostly by opening up the system to fraud. The bill, though, was based on a plan approved by a large bipartisan majority of the county clerks who run the state’s elections. Seventy-five percent of the 64 clerks in the state supported the bill, according to the Clerks Association, and at least 44 of the clerks, some 70 percent, are Republican officeholders.

watchers

Today’s election, the first one since the bill passed into law and took effect, is reportedly running well in Boulder and, so far, there have been no significant complaints making news elsewhere.

There’s a steady stream of cars and pedestrians at the Boulder County Clerk drop-off location.

“We’ve been doing it like this for a decade,” says Clerk Spokesman Brad Turner. “There was all kinds of concerns raised about mail ballots and drop-off centers in the spring. I know that, but it’s going well here. In fact, it’s going the same as ever.” Turner shook his head and smiled, floppy hair swinging slightly, matching his mood.

Clerk Hillary Hall held an open house here yesterday. Staffers shuttled groups of the curious public through the guts of the system. People piled up in groups, peering through glass walls at staffers going about their business. Here the human and mechanical mail sorters; there the signature verifiers; just beyond the glass, envelopes shot down a ramp into stacks.

The facility in Boulder is something like a cross between an operating room and a post office, with a pinch of strip mall-version Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory thrown into the mix. There’s a sparkling newness to it. There are glowing buttons and snaking tubes.

What about the technological chaos promised by Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who testified at length against the reform bill last spring. He said clerks like Hall know little about the state’s SCORE system, which stores voter data.

“We’re the experts on SCORE,” he said at a capitol hearing, referring to his office. “The people who support this bill talking about SCORE, they don’t know anything about it.”

Hall serves on the SCORE advisory committee and supported the bill.

She told the Independent in the spring she was baffled by Gessler’s technological objections. She said HB 1303 didn’t propose using any untested technology. She said SCORE has been in place since 2008.

“We already have statewide connectivity for early voting,” she said. “We use it right now and have for years in the weeks before Election Day. We’re simply extending that registration period by 29 days.”

The law was intended to reduce stress on resources by spreading registration activity over a longer period and eliminating voter rushes that lead to long lines.

“If the concern was tied to same-day registration and voting, well, this bill doesn’t just put in same-day registration. That piece joins with a larger system that, again, draws on functions and practices already in place,” Hall said.

ballot dropoff people

She was talking mainly about mail ballots and drop off centers, like the one she’s running here, where staffers are camped out in the parking lot taking ballots from drivers moving past and back into the street, shouting jokes and “thank yous” and waving.

— JT

*** 12:00 p.m. Report from Virginia, where they’re having a gubernatorial race: Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, is expected to win, based, in large part, on women’s issues. According to a great piece in the Cook Report, much of the Democratic advertising has been on abortion and birth control and, because it’s Virginia (the story says), transvaginal probes.

You can expect to see something very much like this in Colorado in 2014, where you will almost certainly see Republicans trip over these issues in the crowded gubernatorial and senatorial primaries. Colorado and Virginia are two purple-turning-slightly-blue states with similar demographics. Hardly anyone would be happier with a McAuliffe win than Hickenlooper and Udall.

Here’s the report.

— ML

*** 11:40 a.m. Despite what you may have read — and despite what he may have said — it turns out that anti-tax-guy Grover Norquist is against the pot tax. OK, it sure sounded like he told National Journal that he was for it, but when asked again, decided maybe, as the anti-tax guy, he should be against it.

Details from Michael Roberts in Westword.

-ML

*** 11:20 a.m. Pollster/pundit Floyd Ciruli has a good overview on the election today. Key stat: Denver metro area has 56 percent of state voters but will probably need to provide 60 percent for Amendment 66 to pass.

-ML

*** 10:30 a.m. Exchange in Boulder public school hallway yesterday morning.

Staffer: “What’s the date today?”

Dad: “November 4th. Election Day tomorrow. Vote Yes on Amendment 66!”

Teacher and staffer in unison: “What’s Amendment 66?”

Dad, looking around, his face a mask: “It’s a plan to — it raises money for schools and teachers.”

The campaign for the amendment was well planned out. Something like lying low and then jumping up and shouting to get attention right before Coloradans started voting. Detractors say the campaign didn’t so much jump up as get a foot caught in a bush or something.

Others say the campaign tapped the wrong people to orchestrate grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts.

There will no doubt be much Monday morning quarterbacking depending on how the vote goes.

Amendment 66 is not really just about education. It’s about the state budget. Non-partisan analysts agree Colorado government, bound mainly by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, will inevitably plunge deep into the red and fairly quickly, too.

Researchers last fall at the University of Denver took a long, close look at the numbers and had nothing good to say. In a little more than a decade, they explained, the state will face a $3.6 billion shortfall. It will have only enough money to pay for three big ticket services: education, health care and incarceration.

“There will be no tax revenue for public colleges and universities, no money for the state court system, nothing for child protection services, nothing for youth corrections, nothing for state crime labs and nothing for other core services,” said Charlie Brown, director of the university’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Future.

-JT

*** 10:00 a.m. Fox31 reporter Eli Stokols posts turnout numbers. If you’re rooting for Amendment 66, the numbers don’t appear good.

Via the Twitter:


Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) 11/5/13, 9:40 AM INBOX: Now 1.03 million votes cast in Colorado; A66 backers were hoping to be higher than that by now, need big turnout today. #COpolitics
Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) 11/5/13, 9:41 AM Ballot breakdown: 412K Rs, 329K Ds and 280K Us. #COpolitics

And former House Speaker Terrance Carroll weighs in:

Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) 11/5/13, 9:53 AM And R women. MT @speakercarroll: @EliStokols ballot breakdown means the fate of A66 probably rests with the Us #copolitics

-ML

****

It’s an off-year election in swing-state Colorado and there aren’t a whole lot of candidates on ballots. There are, however, important questions voters are being asked to weigh.

Amendment 66 is a statewide education tax proposal that seeks to partially untangle the knot of laws and amendments that control revenue generation and therefore spending in the state. Amendment 66 asks taxpayers to OK a billion-dollar income tax hike aimed at boosting Colorado’s underfunded kindergarten through high school education budget.

Voters in 11 rural counties will consider whether or not to secede from Colorado and start on the long and all-but impassable path toward forming a 51st state. The comparatively white and elderly populations of the secession counties is tiny. Most of them don’t even reach 10,000 residents. Leaders of the effort say the increasingly urbanized and Democratic Front Range communities spoking around Denver control the state government and that the political divide on social issues like gay marriage, science issues like climate change and gun issues like background checks for purchases has become too great. Elected Republicans have struggled to address the secession movement. Congressman Cory Gardner, from Yuma, one of the secession counties, has refused to even talk about it to the press, not even to say which way he will vote on the question.

Coloradans will also vote on whether or not to levy a meaty sales tax on marijuana, which is now a legal recreational drug in the state. Backers of Proposition AA say it will pay for regulating the industry as well as raise additional funds for local schools. Opponents say the tax is wildly steep compared to taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

In Boulder, Broomfield and Fort Collins, residents are also voting on proposals to restrict gas drilling and fracturing by enacting moratoriums within city limits. The votes are part of a larger movement around the state and country fueled by the growing feeling that, when there are vast reserves of gas and crude to be extracted, government officials and political candidates are mostly powerless in the face of the oil-industry lobby.

Also in Boulder, residents will vote up or down on an Xcel Energy proposition that seeks to halt progress on the city effort to tap greater-percentages of clean-energy power by taking over as its own municipal power provider. Cities around the country looking to break monopoly utility control are watching what will happen.

Then there are the politically charged school board races, particularly in Denver and Douglas Counties. They will act as de facto referendums on different ideas about how best to run schools and manage education budgets. Do “market-based approaches” work the way their supporters say they do?

And last, the election itself will be a test of HB 1303, the reform bill passed this spring, which aims to modernize election administration and expand voter participation. Republican lawmakers, following the lead of controversial Secretary of State Scott Gessler, have opposed the bill at every turn in dramatic fashion, decrying it as a recipe for fraud and technological chaos. We shall see.

The Colorado Independent Election Day live blog begins now.

-JT

[ Image of Boulder Clerk’s office dropoff center by John Tomasic ]

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