Electing by district disenfranchises voters
Two Feb. 4 Cortez Journal commentary headlines were curiously at odds with the articles that followed. Sen. Ellen Roberts’s column, “Good governance informs measure to change county election process,” was about bad governance and how it develops despite compelling facts and opposition from an informed constituency and a knowledgeable coalition.
The neutral editorial headline, “County government,” conflicted with its forceful opposition to bad legislation. Both concerned SB 84, the bad idea of by-district voting for county commissioners.
The informed constituency mentioned above had its origins in 1991 La Plata County home rule initiative. A charter commission wrote and presented an excellent home rule charter to the electorate in November 1991.
Encouraged by the small margin of defeat – 47.5 percent to 52.5 percent – and as provided by home rule law, the commission reconvened and took the charter to forums throughout the county.
Following the citizen input provided at these forums, the commission made a single change: from at-large voting for county commissioners to by-district voting. It failed 36 percent to 64 percent, in February 1992 following an intense campaign to defeat it.
The voters refused to contemplate disenfranchisement, where their right to vote for County Commissioner would come around only with an election in their district.
Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliateds from Ignacio, Bayfield, and Durango, and from every unincorporated area spoke as one from rooftops, editorial pages, and radio programs: They would not be denied their right to vote.
They recognized that county commissioners represent every citizen and area of the county, from roads and bridges to property tax mil levies, and insisted on their right to vote accordingly.
Colorado Counties, Inc. was right to oppose the measure in 2012 and 2014 because of the divisiveness it would create among commissioners.
All those who treasure your right to vote in one of the elections closest to you, please contact Rep. Mike McLachlan and ask for his leadership in keeping this disenfranchising legislation out of your voting life (303)866-2914.
Also, please contact Sen. Roberts and ask her to oppose this bad idea if it comes around again (303)866-4884.