Boulder County Districting Scheme

Boulder County is broken up into three districts. District 1 is basically the City of Boulder west of Hwy 36, Jamestown, Ward, and Nederland. District 2 is the part of Boulder east of Hwy 36, Louisville, Lafayette, Superior, and part of Erie. District 3 is Longmont, Niwot, Lyons, and points west. How the county is split up and the amount of districts is not the issue as much as how the county commissioners are elected.

Each commissioner resides in one of the three districts and no two commissioners can reside in the same district, meaning the commissioner for District 1 can live in District 3, and 3 can live in 2, and 2 can live in 1, or some other combination. So your representative can and may live in a different district, and not be as familiar with your districts issues as he should. That’s not representative government, and a loophole that should be closed.

In Longmont, the city is broken up into wards. The way it works is that, for instance, only the people who reside in Ward 2 can vote for Ward 2’s candidates. Those candidates must also reside in Ward 2. In addition, there are “at-large” seats, including the Mayor position, which everyone in the city can vote on, but at least you’re guaranteed a seat on the council that is meant just for your part of the neighborhood. But in Boulder County, everyone in the county votes for all three districts. People in Superior vote for who will represent Longmont, and vice-versa. The reality is that the residents in the City of Boulder select all three commissioners. And that’s exactly how they want it. Again, not representative government.

Boulder’s model doesn’t apply to State Senators or Representatives, or the U.S. House of Representatives. Those are broken down into districts and you only get to vote for your district candidate, not the next district over, or all of the districts. This scam is better than gerrymandering (a form of redistricting in which electoral districts or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage). Why bother with that when you can rig the system this way? Some fallout from this unfair setup is, according to a Times-Call editorial, a high-ranking county official changed his party affiliation to have a snowballs chance at a victory. “Hey, comrade, join the party if you want that spot.” To that I say “Nyet“!

Obviously, the easiest fix would be to allow voters to only select the commissioners in their own district, period. Those candidates should also reside in that district. You could even add a couple of “at large” commissioners that everyone could vote on who would represent the entire district. That was the idea behind the “Drive For Five” initiative a few years ago. Alas, that didn’t pass because voters in Boulder said so. Any other change would be nearly impossible to pass for the same reason. If we aren’t the “City and County of Boulder”, then the City voters shouldn’t be the final word for the rest of the county. In another article, a different approach: seceding from Boulder County.

About Chris Rodriguez

Chris is the editor/publisher of LightningRod Blog - as well as founder/editor of Wrongmont, Longmont Advocate, Vote!Longmont, Longmont Politics, the LightningRod Radio Network, as well as being the original Longmont Examiner. Chris is a writer and talker - whether it be blogs, podcasts, music, or public speaking. When he's not heard on Air Traffic radio, he can be heard on his podcasts or seen in the local paper causing trouble.
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