June 14, 2022
Transitioning odd-year coordinated elections to even-year general elections for the City of Boulder
To: City of Boulder City Council
From: Molly Fitzpatrick, Boulder County Clerk & Recorder
Date: June 2, 2022
Re: Transitioning odd-year coordinated elections to even-year general elections for the City of Boulder
The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s office has been asked to provide input on what the impacts would be if the City of Boulder were to transition their elections to even-numbered years (general election years). While this memo directly speaks to the City of Boulder’s request, these same considerations can be considered by other jurisdictions weighing consolidation of elections.
Consideration: Impact on Cost
There is a potential that transitioning to even year elections could regularly push the City of Boulder to a multi “card” (sheet) ballot in general election years. During even years, this would increase printing cost and other associated processing costs, such as mailing a “heavier” ballot.
For example, the City of Boulder had one card double-sided ballot in both 2019 and 2021. If ballot questions and candidates were “saved” for an even-year, they would appear after federal and statewide contests. In odd-numbered years, there are no federal or statewide candidate offices for election which reduces the content on the ballot and thereby the length of the ballot. There are sometimes statewide or county ballot questions in odd numbered years, and this is not something the Clerk’s office can control, but it does not typically impact the ballot going beyond one card/sheet. Note, our goal at the Elections office it to do our best to always keep our ballots to one card. You will notice we increase the size of the paper to try to always keep it to a one card, however, we occasionally do need to go to a two-card ballot for some jurisdictions when content is long.
Consideration: Impact to voters
The Clerk’s office encourages any city that is interested in transitioning their coordinated elections to even-year elections to engage in a robust stakeholder process to understand the impacts on voters from voters as well as the groups that work to engage and educate voters. Our office would also encourage the City of Boulder or other entities exploring even-year consolidation of elections to reach out to other cities that have made the shift to find out how the process went for those jurisdictions. Additionally, while voter turnout is consistently higher in even-year general elections, we would also encourage the exploration of any academic research around ballot position/contest vote drop off due to ballot length as a consideration.
Consideration: Implementing Ranked Choice Voting
The City of Boulder has decided to implement Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for their next election of their mayor. Beginning in the fall of 2023, the Clerk’s office will be accountable for implementing 4 elections in 12 months: 2023 Coordinated Election, 2024 March Presidential Primary, 2024 June Statewide Primary, and 2024 November General Election.
There is significant planning to be done for the first RCV election including but not limited to: voter education, usability testing for voters, and extensive voting system testing for this new type of election. It will also require the development of procedures for an audit, as the current audit (risk limiting audit) software in Colorado does not support a RCV contest review.
Our office believes that implementing the first RCV contest in an odd year maximizes the ability for the Clerk’s office to implement elections with the standard Boulder County voters are accustomed to and deserve: accuracy, accessibility, and transparency. We encourage the City of Boulder, when considering this move, to consider a plan that supports a first implementation of rank choice in an odd year to better support our collective success.
Summary and Recommendation
Due to these considerations, the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder’s office recommends that if the City of Boulder chooses to consolidate municipal elections with even-year fall general elections, that they either hold their first ranked choice election either in 2023 and consolidate in 2024 or conduct their first ranked choice election in either 2023 or 2025 and then consolidate in 2026. Our office strongly opposes trying to consolidate elections and run a first ever ranked choice election in 2024.