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Let’s be honest: you probably haven’t been that involved in this year’s voting fervor. Sure, you saw the “Register to Vote!” booths around campus, and maybe you walked up and registered — but you weren’t clear on all the issues.
You are not alone, Colorado citizen. It’s natural to be confused or overwhelmed by the obscure issues and races of midterm elections. But we are here to fix that.
As a Coloradan, you live in one of the most important swing states in the country. Our Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner could very well tip the entire balance of power in the U.S. Senate. We’ve also got four important state ballot initiatives – two proposed state constitutional amendments and two proposed state statutes – to decide this Nov. 4. Abortion? Gambling? GMOs? Fracking and oil? It’s all up for decision here in this year’s midterms. First let’s take a look at our Senate race.
Udall vs. Gardner: Clearly split
Udall and Gardner’s campaigns have been focused on the candidates’ established voting records. Gardner has been criticized for siding with Tea Party Republicans in last year’s government shutdown crisis, when the GOP refused to pass a budget bill unless Congress delayed or overturned the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Udall, on the other hand, has been criticized by Republicans for supporting the ACA. The strategy has been to tie Udall as closely to the law as possible; now, this might sound nonsensical, as a close look at the ACA reveals that it’s actually a good thing. The issue depends on how you see the law, but suffice it to say that if you support Obamacare, you should vote for Udall, and if you don’t, you should vote for Gardner.
On the abortion issue, Gardner has sponsored laws in Colorado and at the federal level to outlaw abortion, and he also circulated petitions for Amendment 67, Colorado’s “personhood” bill — more on that in a moment. Udall, on the other hand, has been identified as pro-choice.
Where things get a bit murky is when it comes to fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline, where Gardner clearly supports both, but Udall is lukewarm. The Keystone pipeline proposal is basically a plan for a giant underground oil pipeline to run from Canada down to the southern U.S., running under the middle part of the country to get there. Environmentalists oppose the law, citing the risk of oil spills along the pipe’s path and the fact that extracting oil from tar sands (which the pipeline would transport) adds significant greenhouse emissions to the atmosphere. Udall voted against a nonbinding Senate motion to support the Keystone pipeline, but hasn’t articulated a strong position against it. Udall is not opposed to fracking with regulations — but he’s stayed pretty vague about those regulations.
Amendment 67: Personhood just won’t quit
Amendment 67 is a ballot initiative to the Colorado Constitution. The amendment would define an unborn child as a “person” legally. Also called the Brady Amendment, the law has been touted as a response to a drunk driving accident in which a mother’s unborn child was killed but the drunk driver couldn’t be prosecuted because legally Brady, the unborn child, wasn’t a person.
Ostensibly, this makes sense; of course we should be able to prosecute cases where a pregnant mother loses her child in an accident. But this is really a thinly veiled attempt at banning abortion (the third one since 2008) in Colorado. A bill was passed last summer to make murder of an unborn child prosecutable, but that bill did not include “medical care for which the mother [provides] consent” – that is, abortions. So pro-life groups pushed this new amendment. Pretty simple: If you’re pro-life you should support it, and if you’re pro-choice you should vote against it.
Amendment 68: For some reason, horse racing…?
Amendment 68, in truly vague language, aims to allow “limited gaming” additions to horseracing tracks in Arapahoe, Mesa and Pueblo counties. A portion of the revenue from those casinos would then be taxed and put to funding K-12 education in Colorado. Sounds great, right?
The problem is that the amendment was really put on the ballot by a gambling company in Rhode Island — they’d make money on the new casinos, which would take away profits and tax revenue normally made by casinos in Blackhawk, Cripple Creek and Central City, towns which depend on that revenue. There is also the possibility that these communities would oppose new casinos being built, and this amendment would override their authority. Our education system needs money, but not at the cost of gutting our established casino-based towns — and power of community choice — to do it.
Propositions 104 and 105: School boards and GMOs
Prop 104 would require any meeting between school board members and representatives of school employees to be open to the public. What this means is that negotiations or “collective bargaining” between teachers’ unions and school board officials over salaries and school district budgets would be open for anyone to watch. Supporters believe that this would ensure more transparency in the way school budgets are decided. While opponents of the prop contend that districts already have the choice to make negotiations public, and that the wording of the law might make even short conversations between teachers and supervisors illegal unless posted publicly in advance. But it’s unlikely that courts would interpret it this way if the issue ever came up.
Prop 105 aims to require all food providers in Colorado to indicate whether their products are made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Supporters of the law believe that consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and they point to possible allergy issues if such labels aren’t required. Opponents of the law say that it would be far too costly to require companies to label food in this way. They also point to the fact that food from animals that are fed genetically engineered foods are exempt from the requirement, which leaves some confusing gray area for the labeling system. The kicker is that although organic-minded producers oppose GMO foods, the worldwide scientific community has found no evidence that GMO foods are a bigger health risk than non-GMO foods. Go figure, Boulderites.
And now, vote!
The ballots have been mailed out already, and if you haven’t registered to vote, visit this website to get registered. You have two more weeks, and in Colorado, where we sit back and mail our ballots in, you have no excuse not to exercise your voting rights. Stand up for what you believe in, and make a difference — in an election with so much at stake, there’s no reason to sit on the sidelines.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Opinion Editor Ellis Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org.