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  • Writer's pictureBedrooms Are For People

New online petitioning system, charter amendments meant to provide clarity, ease in election process

By Deborah Swearingen. Originally published in the Daily Camera on October 13, 2020.

"Several campaigns this year petitioned to get on the ballot, but the Boulder City Council in April denied an emergency order that would have temporarily allowed signatures gathered electronically to count toward the thresholds required for resident-led initiatives to make the ballot.

Activists pushed for this, largely because of the coronavirus pandemic, which kept people inside and made many uncomfortable about signing paper petitions and interacting with petition gatherers.

'We decided we were willing to risk our health and lives to go out in person to collect signatures because there was no alternative provided,' Chelsea Castellano said. 'That impacted us a lot. It impacted how many people we could get to collect signatures... and it impacted how many people wanted to sign the petition.'

Castellano is one of the campaign organizers for Bedrooms Are For People, an initiative that aims to allow housing units to be occupied by the same number of people as available bedrooms, plus one, and for a total of four people to occupy a home with fewer than four bedrooms. In most of Boulder, it’s illegal to have more than three unrelated people living together, though, in some specific areas, the limit is four, according to the group’s website. The initiative did not make the ballot this year due to the incorrect information provided by the city.

Since Bedrooms Are For People was a charter amendment initiative, the measure wouldn’t be allowed to use the Boulder Direct Democracy Online platform as it currently stands. The memo provided to the City Council cites a state law that requires petitions for charter amendments to be signed in the presence of a circulator. It says the new software would allow electronic petitioning to be extended to charter amendments in the future if state law changes.

But that wouldn’t have prohibited campaign organizers such as Castellano from switching to a municipal initiative, which proposes a measure to the City Council and allows councilmembers to adopt it or submit it for a vote of the people."

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