City continues to fine-tune Boulder Direct Democracy Online as users report inability to use system
By Deborah Swearingen. Originally published in the Daily Camera on January 31, 2021.
"Boulder continues to troubleshoot issues with Boulder Direct Democracy Online, the city’s new online petitioning software, ahead of the fast-approaching date when campaigns can begin collecting signatures.
When Boulder officially launched a preview of the new online system Jan. 22, it promised to have the online system available 'as soon as an approved petition becomes available.' Boulder Direct Democracy Online allows online signature-gathering for initiative petitions, recalls and referendums. Charter amendments cannot use the online system.
Bedrooms Are For People, which seeks to change Boulder’s occupancy limits to allow more unrelated people to live together, filed its notice of intent with the city January 19. According to co-chairs Eric Budd and Chelsea Castellano, the city came back with some changes, and the campaign submitted its revised language Friday.
Boulder has five days to review and approve it, at which time the campaign can begin collecting signatures. However, while some have been successful in signing the test petition, many others have been vocal over social media and in emails to the city about their continued inability to use the system. Users report everything from receiving an inexplicable error message to not receiving a follow-up call or text message when going through the two-factor authentication process.
According to those who have tested the system, the most commonly experienced problem occurs when someone has an 'unlisted' number on their voter registration. While a person can add a phone number online, it doesn’t change the status, according to Bedrooms representatives. In order to make that change, Budd and Castellano said a person must call the county clerk and physically go into the office.
Bedrooms reports that about half of its volunteers have thus far been unable to sign the test petition, and the majority of the issues can be attributed to an unlisted number.
This is concerning to campaign representatives, who noted the issues create a barrier to entry despite the fact that the system is meant to improve access for all. Budd said Bedrooms volunteers are invested in ensuring their ability to sign the petition, but the average person might not be as willing to go through the process if it’s confusing or difficult."