Decision 2012

Take time to understand the choices to be made before marking your ballot

La Plata County voters will face a fairly lengthy list of choices on this fall’s ballot. To ensure their own representation, they would do well to get to know what will be asked of them before they have to choose.

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9. Ballots will then be mailed out the week of Oct. 15. La Plata County will be mailing five different ballot styles depending on where each voter lives. And with that, voters will decide eight races for elective office (although one is unopposed), choose whether to retain seven judges (none local), and approve or reject three state measures, one Durango issue, two Bayfield spending questions and one about the Hermosa Cliff Fire Protection District.

At the top of the ballot is, of course, the presidency. As we all know, either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama will win the election, but on the ballot there are 16 choices, plus a line to write in a name. Among the candidates are former New Mexico governor, Gary Johnson, running as a Libertarian, and the Peace and Freedom Party candidate, actress and comedienne Roseanne Barr.

The race to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District has four candidates and a write-in space. The winner will be either the incumbent, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, or his Democratic challenger, Sal Pace.

Those two races – president and U.S. House – are the only contests with space for a write-in vote. To be eligible to receive a write-in vote a prospective candidate has to apply to the state. No one did in any other races.

Moving down the ballot, there are four people running for the at-large seat as regent of the University of Colorado. The only serious challenge to the incumbent Democrat Stephen Ludwig is Republican Brian Davidson.

From there the choices are simpler. Democrat Jessica Garrow and Republican Glenn Gallegos are vying to represent the 3rd Congressional District as CU regent. Mike McLachlan is state Rep. J. Paul Brown’s Democratic challenger. Democrat Gwen Lachelt is taking on incumbent Republican County Commissioner Kellie Hotter. Harry Baxstrom and Julie Westendorf, R and D respectively, are competing for the commissioner seat being vacated by the term-limited Wally White. And in the only uncontested race, Democrat Todd Risberg is seeking re-election as district attorney.

The ballot also includes retention questions for one state Supreme Court justice and six judges on the Colorado Court of Appeals. These are not elections so much as a mechanism for addressing egregious behavior, allegations of which are rare.

All three statewide ballot measures would amend the state Constitution. One would reform the state’s personnel system. Another would effectively legalize marijuana. The third seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit campaign contributions and spending.

A Durango-only referendum would approve a new version of the city’s franchise agreement with La Plata Electric Association. The voters rejected the first try earlier this year.

Bayfield voters will decide the fate of two measures to raise taxes to improve their schools. The money would go to boost salaries, for new construction and for needed maintenance.

Last, Ballot Question 5A asks whether members of the board of directors of the Hermosa Cliff Fire Protection District should be subject to term limits.

There is a lot to think about in all of this, and few if any of the decisions involved deserve knee-jerk or dismissive responses. Slick broadcast ads and bogus “gotchas” are not enough, and televising screaming matches is no way to govern ourselves.

It is time now for some serious citizenship, for studying, reading and considering answers. The issues and individuals on this year’s ballot deserve no less. Neither do you.