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Despite Bedrooms Are For People’s success, problems persist with Boulder Direct Democracy Online

By Deborah Swearingen. Originally published in the Daily Camera on June 6, 2021.


"The first year of Boulder Direct Democracy Online, the city’s new online petitioning system, was not without its challenges.


Still, Bedrooms Are For People, which seeks to change Boulder’s occupancy limits by allowing more unrelated people to live together, has tentatively made the ballot. Bedrooms — the sole campaign of three total that chose to use the city’s new system — has collected more than 3,500 signatures of the 3,336 it needs. Once submitted, the city has 10 days to validate the signatures.


While collecting signatures, however, many of the Bedrooms Are For People volunteers worked 40 hours a week — on top of their day jobs — helping people navigate the system and understand how to sign the petition. The team built a customer management system to help people through the process and spent 300 to 500 hours assisting potential signees.


'We essentially had to create our own technology company to use this system,' co-chair Eric Budd said.


“We stuck to our plan, but it just took a lot more work to execute the plan than we were realizing,” he added.


According to data collected by Bedrooms, 6,300 people tried to sign the petition, and there were 4,800 that the campaign deemed as valid submissions by matching information from the campaign’s website to the city’s voter database. More than 3,500 of those signatures had been verified through the city’s system as of Friday.


The final signing rate of valid Boulder voters was 73%, Budd said. That left about 1,200 who should have been able to sign but were unable to complete the process...


...Budd and co-chair Chelsea Castellano said it’s hard to say for certain whether they’d opt to use Boulder Direct Democracy Online again if they wanted to bring forth another ballot measure. Castellano maintains it would be best to be able to offer both the paper and the online option for people.


'Obviously allowing both in-person and digital signatures would have been the most equitable approach,' Castellano said. 'It’s really not fair to ask voters to go through what some people really have to go through in order to support an initiative'...


...At the end of the day, the petitioning system isn’t the problem Bedrooms is trying to solve.


'The mechanism by which we get this measure on the ballot is secondary to the importance of what we’re trying to accomplish,' Castellano said.


'The people who are being hurt and who are struggling in their current housing situation … That’s the problem that we’re trying to fix,' she added. 'And that problem is, in my mind, more important than fixing the electronic petitioning system.'


Read the full story on the Daily Camera.


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