Online Direct Democracy Launches in Boulder, But Snags Remain

Starting today, the Boulder group, Bedrooms are for People will begin collecting endorsements using Boulder’s new online petition software. Boulder Direct Democracy has widely been reported as a first in the nation. But as KGNU’s Roz Brown reports, its rollout is anything but direct – as challenges persist, especially if you have an unlisted phone number on your voter registration.

Listen to the report here:

Starting today, the Boulder group, Bedrooms Are for People will begin collecting endorsements using Boulder’s new online petition software. Boulder Direct Democracy has widely been reported as a first in the nation. But its rollout is anything but direct – as challenges persist, especially if you have an unlisted phone number on your voter registration. Bedrooms Are for People, a citizen-initiated petition question was expected to be on the ballot last November, but the group was given wrong information about the required number of signatures, and also the wrong date for submission. The Bedrooms campaign co-chair Eric Budd told Boulder City Council last week that his group will once again ask voters to sign a petition to change occupancy limits that prevent more than 3 people from living together in most locations. But since the city launched a preview of its online petitioning system on January 22, multiple problems have cropped up.

“We have a right in the city charter to put our fair housing petition on the ballot,” said Budd. “The problem is the city’s current online system doesn’t work for a large segment of the community,” said Budd. “Only 21 of the 45 members of our group who tried to use it were successful and our volunteers would walk through fire to get Bedrooms Are for People on the ballot. There is currently a huge unsolved issue with unlisted numbers which adds hurdles to signing petitions.”

City Attorney Tom Carr told city council the problem with unlisted numbers was not anticipated.

“I’m very sorry for the problems but we didn’t have any idea these problems existed until we went through the preview,” said Carr.

Some people trying to use the system say they have not received a confirmation code via phone call or a text message and therefore could not go through the two-factor authentication process. Others have received an error message despite doing everything properly. Councilmember Rachel Friend wondered aloud just how successful residents will be using the flawed system.

“I was one of the council members who struck-out trying to use the system, and it made me realize this is not user-friendly,” said Friend. “It requires people to engage more than I think the average person would want to.”

Carr responded to Friend, saying he hopes the glitches can eventually be fixed to make the Direct Democracy online petition software work more efficiently. To check out the new online system go to petitions.bouldercolorado.gov.