By Emma Athena. Originally published in the Boulder Weekly on September 24, 2020.
Boulder’s electronic petitioning system is almost ready to go, but is it too little, too late?
"After nearly two years of development, Boulder’s first-of-its-kind electronic petitioning system is scheduled to begin serving citizen campaigns in the 2021 election season. For some, 'Boulder Direct Democracy Online' (BDDO) is an exciting next-step in advancing democracy to meet modern technological potential; for others, especially those who participated in 2020’s pandemic-disrupted democratic process, BDDO presents equity concerns and generally feels too little, too late.
'We need a system that works for people,' Eric Budd, co-chair for the Bedrooms Are for People (BAFP) campaign, says. This spring, BAFP was one of many campaigns to receive incorrect petitioning guidance from the City, which prevented the placement of its citizen-initiated measure on the 2020 ballot. (See News, 'What will happen to Boulder’s 2020 initiatives?' July 30.) 'I’d like to be hopeful for the system, but the City hasn’t given us any reason to be hopeful.'
Boulder voters initially approved an electronic petitioning system in 2018, and ever since, City staff have been wading through the creation of a secure software platform that can handle highly sensitive information and thousands of user interactions. When petitioners like Budd asked for access to an electronic petitioning system early this spring to help gather signatures while social distancing, Boulder’s City Council determined the system in-development was not yet ready, and declined to entertain temporary alternatives, citing security concerns."