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Use Your Voice and Vote

Why is a sustainability-focused nonprofit weighing in on the ballot measures up for a vote in 2018? Because our democracy, our environment, and our economy are at risk, and now is the time for us to stand up and fight for them.

In 2014, the last time we held a midterm in our country, only 36 percent of eligible American voters turned out to vote. That means 64 percent of voting Americans willingly silenced themselves. Look where that got us. Fortunately, since the 2016 election, a record number of women and minorities are running for office in 2018, hoping to change the demographics of our elected positions across the country. They cannot win with without your vote.

The health of our global, national, and local environments are at stake. President Trump pulled us out of the Paris Accords. We are the only country in the world to refuse to sign the accord that is designed to tackle climate change. Our storms are getting stronger, our global temperatures are rising, and our federal leadership is attempting to revive the failing coal industry. No one thinks coal is a solution for the future. Hurricane Florence illustrated this point perfectly. The hurricane crippled electricity and coal – but solar and wind were back online the next day. Fortunately, climate action didn’t stop when Trump pulled us out of the Paris Accords. Local and regional governments are taking the lead on greenhouse gas reductions, implementing ambitious and strategic emission reduction goals. Initiatives like Proposition 110 aim to increase our ability to manage more traffic on our roads while also providing low-emission transportation options like expanded public transportation and bike lanes.

Finally, let’s talk about our economy – our president’s plan to escalate economic protectionism, heightening political and trade tensions, and waning popular support for global economic integration all point toward a softening in the world economy after 2019. Businesses and our economy can be a force for good in the world, but in irresponsible hands, they can also undermine many environmental and democratic gains. Here in Colorado, we have one of the highest concentrations of B Corps (certified socially-responsible businesses) anywhere in the world. These companies are leading the way integrating profits, people, and the planet.

Back to the ballot measures up for a vote in Colorado in 2018. Many of these measures affect the future health of our environment, our economy, and our communities. Below is a brief description of a selection of ballot measures up for a vote this year as well as our stance on each of these measures. To learn about all of the 2018 ballot measures, please click here.

The good news – it is not too late to turn this ship around. Our democracy is only as strong as its citizens. It’s time to step up, raise your voice, and be counted.

Amendment Y – Independent Commission for Congressional Redistricting Amendment – Vote YES

Amendment Y establishes an independent commission for congressional redistricting in the state.

  • By voting yes, you support this amendment to create a 12-member commission responsible for approving district maps for Colorado’s congressional districts.
  • We think you should vote yes this amendment because a fair and democratic districting process (as opposed to gerrymandering) is a core component to our sustainable democracy.

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Amendment Z – Independent Commission for State Legislative Redistricting Amendment – Vote YES

Amendment Z establishes an independent commission for state legislative redistricting.

  • By voting yes, you support this amendment to create a 12-member commission responsible for approving district maps for Colorado’s state House of Representatives and state Senate districts; establish qualifying criteria for members and restrictions on prior or current elected officials, candidates or lobbyists being members; and enact requirements for district maps.
  • We think you should vote yes on this amendment because the goal of redistricting should be to draw districts that fairly represent the interests of the communities in our state. Districts should not be drawn to advantage incumbents or to favor a political party. We argue that the best way to accomplish this goal in Colorado is through an independent commission process that is transparent, accessible to, and inclusive of, Colorado citizens.

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Amendment 73 – Establish Income Tax Brackets and Raise Taxes for Education Initiative – Vote YES

Amendment 73 establishes income tax brackets and raises taxes for an education initiative.

  • By voting yes, you support the creation of a tax bracket system instead of a flat tax rate. Taxes would be raised for individuals making more than $150,000 per year, the corporate tax would also rise, and these taxes would go into the Quality Public Education Fund to fund public schools in Colorado.
  • We think you should vote yes on this amendment because it will raise $1.6 billion a year in additional revenue for Colorado’s public schools. Revenue will be deposited in the Quality Public Education Fund to increase the statewide base per-pupil funding for all students and increase spending for special education, preschool, English language proficiency, and gifted programs, among other things.

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Amendment 74 – Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Initiative – Vote NO

Amendment 74 requires that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations.

  • By voting no, you do not support a measure that would charge taxpayers to compensate private property owners for virtually any decrease in the fair market value of their property traceable to any government law or regulation. While expanding property rights may sound good, this measure is incredibly broad and would have sweeping negative implications on local governments and communities across the state.
  • We think you should vote no on this measure because under this amendment taxpayers would have to pay large corporations and special interests to have reasonable rules requiring clean water or clean air, properly zoning industrial activity, or any other regulation they think is beneficial for their neighborhoods or communities.

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Proposition 109 – “Fix Our Damn Roads” Transportation Bond Initiative- Vote NO

Proposition 109 authorizes bonds for transportation projects without raising taxes.

  • By voting yes, you support this initiative to authorize $3.5 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects including bridge expansion, construction, maintenance, and repairs, and require that the state repay the debt from the general fund without raising taxes.
  • We think you should vote no on this measure because it does not identify where these funds will come from out of the current tax base and has the potential to take money away from public schools and other public services paid for by state tax dollars.

Learn more

Proposition 110 – “Let’s Go Colorado” Transportation Bond and Sales Tax Increase Initiative – Vote YES

Proposition 110 authorizes bonds to pay for transportation projects and raises taxes to repay the debt

  • By voting yes, you support this initiative to authorize $6 billion in bonds to fund transportation projects, establish the Transportation Revenue Anticipation Notes Citizen Oversight Committee, and raise the state sales tax rate by 0.62 percent from 2.9 percent (2018) to 3.52 percent for 20 years starting on January 1, 2019, through January 1, 2039.
  • We support voting yes on this measure because this it will provide a stable, on-going revenue source for transportation needs throughout the state and will reduce state-wide greenhouse gas reductions in the transportation sector through the inclusion of dedicated multimodal (walk, bike, public transit) dollars (the Multimodal Transportation Options Fund).

Learn more

Proposition 111 – Limits on Payday Loan Charges Initiative- Vote YES

Proposition 111 Restricts the charges on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminate all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending.

  • By voting yes, you support this initiative to reduce the annual interest rate on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent and eliminate all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending.
  • We support voting yes on this measure because payday lenders trap Coloradans in outrageously high-cost debt. Triple-digit rates and multiple fees strip millions of dollars annually from the pockets of people across the state. Voting yes on this measure provides basic guardrails for low income families from being preyed upon by predatory lenders.

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Proposition 112 – Minimum Distance Requirements for New Oil, Gas, and Fracking Projects Initiative- Vote YES

Proposition 112 Mandates that new oil and gas development projects, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as vulnerable.

  • By voting yes, you support this initiative to set new oil and gas development, including fracking operations, to be set at least 2,500 feet away from homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, permanent sports fields, amphitheaters, public parks, public open space, public and community drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks, and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government.
  • We support voting yes on this measure because it works toward safer neighborhoods, schools, and communities in Colorado. By setting oil and gas operations a safe distance away from these areas, we can reduce air pollution that affects some of our most vulnerable populations, especially children.

Learn more

3 Reasons Why You Should Vote

Check out our three reasons why you should vote in the Colorado Primary election – and how to do it!

Why Are We Talking About This?

Why is a sustainability-focused non-profit writing about and working on civic engagement? Because a strong democracy is a core piece of our sustainable future.

There are three tiers of holistic sustainability – our environment, our economy, and our communities. The health and diversity of our communities are often over-looked and under-appreciated pieces of the sustainability movement. Without strong and informed civic engagement, our democracy falters and our voices are lost amid the chaos of the 24-hour news cycle, political propaganda, and the grind of our everyday lives.

While the 2008 presidential elections boasted the highest U.S. turnout since the 1968 elections, more than 4 in 10 Americans aged 18 or older still stayed home. The latest presidential election had a similar overall turnout, but the number of voters between the ages of 18-29 dropped from over 50% in 2008 to just over 46% in 2016. Why does this matter? Because younger generations are silencing their voices by not turning out to the polls.

Most people know that they should vote in the presidential elections – but what about elections in the years when we are not choosing our commander-in-chief? In 2018 we have the potential to dramatically change the political make-up of Colorado. A major piece of that puzzle is voting in the primary elections. Primary elections (or “the primaries”) are elections that determine who is on the ballot for our votes in November.

Why You Should Vote

Here are three reasons why you should vote in the primaries in CO this Spring:

1.Voting in the primaries makes our democracy more representative.

This is the first (ever) primary election where unaffiliated voters can participate in Colorado. There are more unaffiliated voters in CO than democrats or republicans. If unaffiliated voters make their voice heard this year they actually have more sway than either of the entrenched political parties. Even though Colorado is a ‘blue state’ in many of our political leanings (ahem legalized marijuana) overall the state is solidly purple. The voting power of unaffiliated voters in Colorado significantly determines how the state leans. In other words we are approximately 1/3 republicans, 1/3 democrats and 1/3 unaffiliated voters in Colorado. The candidates that win elected office in Colorado are the ones that can win-over the unaffiliated voters and this is the first time they can vote to determine who makes the final ballot in November, 2018.

The primaries are your REAL chance to put your vote toward the candidate that shares your values, and prioritizes your issues. If you don’t participate in the primaries you don’t have a say in who makes the final ballot and ultimately is elected to office.

2. Generations of Americans struggled to win the right to vote.

Today, many people may take their right to vote for granted, but it wasn’t truly that long ago when entire swaths of the population ― like women ― were denied that right. Native Americans, African Americans, Asians and Latinos still face discrimination today (cite).

3. Voting Gives You a Voice

Voting is an important, meaningful way to give a voice to the issues you care about ― and the representatives you vote into office can create the changes you want to see. In the 2018 elections we have the following offices up for election at the state level: Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, US House/Senate and State House/Senate. Your vote is a license to justifiably complain about your elected officials. Your grievances will carry more weight if you speak out as a voter trying to hold your candidates accountable for promises they made.

When You Can Vote + How

We know that voting and civic engagement in general can be overwhelming, which is why we want to share the best tools for making your voice heard. Below you can find a timeline of steps for voting in the 2018 primary elections in CO – big thanks to our friends at Just Vote Colorado* for this information. If you want to find out more about the voting process or if you have other questions, please visit their website.

If you are new to the state or have not voted before, you can register to vote by following this link.

June 4th – Ballots are sent out via mail.

**If you are unaffiliated you will receive a republican and a democratic ballot and you will have to choose which party to affiliate with. Unaffiliated voters may only vote and return ONE BALLOT! If you vote any or all races on more than one ballot, none of your votes will be counted. To find your nearest dropbox where you can return your ballot, visit www.justvotecolorado.org or return your ballot by mail.

June 19th – Voter Services and Polling Centers open their doors, this is also the LAST DAY to return your ballot by mail.

June 26th – The polling period for the primary elections closes.

What Else You Can Do

*Just Vote! Colorado Election Protection is a non-partisan voter assistance program and is not affiliated with or promoting any party, candidate or ballot issue. Just Vote is not affiliated with or responsible for the content of this piece.