Regina Cowles: Voter suppression tactics not welcome

Had the polling place not been positioned in a partial construction zone, not well-known, hard to identify and even more difficult to reach, it’s clear to me that many more students, faculty and staff would have voted on the CU campus on Nov 7. Away from the heart of campus, 1000 Regent Drive was a pretty poor choice for a voting location.

It was getting dark at 4 p.m. on Election Day; the weather was foul; accumulating snow, blowing wind and icy paths made walking, biking and driving difficult. The temperatures were heading south of 30 degrees. The large parking lots on campus were emptying out, causing bumper-to-bumper, single-lane traffic in all directions. Many students had left their homes that morning dressed for better weather.

Google the phrase “assisting voters to the polls” and you’ll find millions of hits. Sometimes referred to as a courtesy car, it’s a long-standing practice to drive voters to the polls on Election Day. So, recognizing the bad weather as an impediment and, also, being a lifetime fan of voting, I volunteered to drive students during a snowstorm in the last hours of Election Day.

My passengers were undergraduates, a Ph.D. candidate, a law student about to graduate, another was an instructor. Several of them were born and raised in Colorado, many of them were Boulder natives. All of them were Boulder residents. They were thankful for the ride in the warm car and the opportunity to vote.

The Daily Camera’s Nov. 12 editorial, “A memorable off-year election” suggests that CU voters had some sort of sinister intent: “… their CU tactic is likely to increase divisiveness … .” Deny it if you will, but young voters all across the country are crossing generational lines to stand up for climate equity and social justice. Here in Boulder they are even willing to tax themselves for it.

Another statement from that editorial asserts student votes are somehow less important than the vote of a “resident.” The statement “… with resident opponents required to pay a tax pushed over the top by students, many of whom are just passing through” wildly misleads as every ratepayer in the city pays the Utility Occupation Tax. Yes, even students.

The anti-muni campaign made no bones about being well-funded. A no on 2L committee was comprised of one currently elected and two formerly elected men; Engage Boulder sprung up, funded by an extremely wealthy couple; Open Boulder, with more uber rich members, was against 2L; members of the Chamber of Commerce were opposed; Boulder Tomorrow stood against the measures; City Council candidates declared their loyalty to the opposition; our largest employer, IBM threatened to leave the city; the daily newspaper banged out a constant drumbeat against municipalization; and, promising to be more climate conscious, last minute inducements by the investor-owned utility made front page news.

And, on it goes. Just last week, anti-muni’s chief disinformation officer, Patrick Murphy, filed a frivolous complaint, alleging New Era Colorado violated election law. Murphy’s attempt to disenfranchise and suppress voters is unwelcome here. Boulder is way better than that.

Half of Boulder had already voted yes on 2L by the time Election Day rolled around. Voters remaining loyal to municipalization voted to act on climate and explore the feasibility of moving Boulder forward to a fossil-free electric utility. Pro-muni activists — from 13-years-old to 91-years-olds — from Empower Our Future, 350 Colorado, the Sierra Club IPG, New Era Colorado, Clean Energy Action, Renewables YES, PLAN-Boulder County, worked long and hard to keep voters engaged over the past 10 years. Like in 2011 and 2013, we once again rolled up our sleeves and set out to run a campaign, reaching out to the entire community in a variety of ways.

It’s no secret: winning elections is all about getting your supporters to vote. That’s not something that happens on Election Day, it takes work, months of it, to accomplish that goal. Bravo to New Era Colorado for dedicating themselves to educating and engaging the next generation of young voters. That strengthens democracy and creates new leaders.

Pro muni advocates are looking forward to working with the entire community, Xcel Energy and the City Council to explore all of the possibilities for the creation of a community-owned public electric utility in Boulder. We hope others will join us and not attempt to divide us.

This Opinion was published by the Daily Camera.

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