Only 43.61 percent of active voters in Boulder cast ballots this year, according to the Boulder County clerk. That is even lower than the 44.9 percent turnout in 2015. Rather than be up in arms about these abysmally low turnout numbers, citizen ire has turned to the get-out-the-vote efforts of New Era Colorado.
Boulder resident Patrick Murphy has lodged a complaint with the Boulder District Attorney's Office claiming New Era committed a "huge no-no" by offering pizza and rides to the polls in exchange for votes. New Era Executive Director Lizzy Stephan maintains that New Era did nothing wrong: "New Era is careful to follow the law and we followed the law in this election. Nonprofits have offered underrepresented voters rides to the polls for decades as a way to ensure their voices are heard in our democracy." She also added that they give pizza to everyone on Election Day, no matter how they are planning to vote.
In addition to the formal complaint, one letter to the Daily Camera suggests that something illegal may have happened and implored the University of Colorado to protect its "impressionable" students from any "inappropriate activity." Protect them from what: free pizza or voting?
Let's give these CU students some credit. They care about the environment. They are alarmed by the policies of Donald Trump. They are worried about the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics. They want action. The opponents of 2L admitted that they offered no alternatives to municipalization and made no effort to engage young people around this issue.
Another writer questions the fairness of allowing student votes to count equally with the votes of other Boulder taxpayers because some students may not stay in Boulder after they graduate. What would this writer suggest? Shall we go back to a time when only landowners can vote? Many of these students will be moving on in a few years, but so will many other Boulder residents. I don't think we are going to impose a four-year residency requirement for voting.
Opponents of 2L would do well to stop blaming students, pizza and New Era for their election loss. The opposition didn't work hard enough. They didn't offer another option that was better. They didn't engage with young people about alternatives to get to the clean energy future they want.
Whether you voted for or against the muni, everyone should be alarmed by the attack on New Era Colorado. The organization has been working all over Colorado since 2006 to engage young people in the political process. Voting is at the core of our democracy. Disenfranchising young voters or any group of voters is not the way forward for Boulder or for our country.