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Boulder signature collectors stop door knocking, invite voters to meet them outside

Challenges to collect signatures in-person during a pandemic has community causes partnering to place initiatives on the ballot.
Credit: 9NEWS

BOULDER, Colo. — Facing a requirement to meet people face-to-face, three different groups collecting signatures in Boulder have united as much as you can with social distancing.

Last month, Boulder City Council decided not to allow digital signature collection for three different ballot issues attempting to qualify for the November election. 

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"End the Muni" is an effort to stop Boulder from starting its own power company.

"Bedrooms are for People" is trying to change the Boulder City Charter to allow more unrelated people to legally live together.

"No Eviction Without Representation" wants to require Boulder to give free legal assistance to people facing eviction.

"None of this is a good way to get signatures because we're collecting signatures in-person during a pandemic," said Ruy Arango, who is collecting signatures for "No Eviction Without Representation."

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Arango set up in front of Boulder High School, with a handmade #curbsidedemocracy sign.

"It's a good spot to find new voters, who are excited to sign something, get involved, and their parents, as well," said Arango. "We're doing everything we can to reduce the possibility of transmission."

He has the petition signer take the pen and gives them a squirt of hand sanitizer before they leave.

He's trying to collect 3,336 valid Boulder voter signatures by June 5, but he's also collecting signatures for the other causes as well.

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"I might not necessarily vote for these other initiatives, but I do want to see them get to the ballot," said Arango.

"We don't necessarily, 100 percent agree on each of our issues. We're all fighting on one thing and that's getting petitions signed," said Patrick Murphy, who is collecting signatures for "End the Muni." "We're all, kind of, trying to dig ourselves out of a hole, and it'd be better if we were all working together."

Murphy set up a tent at Burke Park in Boulder, alongside Krista Nordback, a volunteer with "Bedrooms are for People."

"I saw him out in the park in front of my house and I said, 'this is a brilliant idea,' and others in my group also agreed, and so we said, 'let's work together,'" said Nordback.

Burke Park, which is tucked away behind the Safeway at Foothills Parkway and Mohawk Drive, is not exactly as visible as a grocery store parking lot.

"We sent postcards out to every registered voter in this zip code, so that was our advertising," said Murphy. "All people need to know is where and when, and they'll show up."

He estimated he collected about 500 signatures on Wednesday.

"This was an experiment. We had no idea this was going to work," said Murphy.

He's also soliciting donations to be spent on the next set of postcards, so he can set up in a different part of Boulder next week.

"We've gotten just about enough donations to go to the next zip code, which will be down in Table Mesa," said Murphy.

"It's not ideal. It's definitely not ideal. We're doing the best we can," said Nordback. "At first, I was wearing the N95. And then, I think it scared people off. And now, I'm wearing something a little more friendly."

"More friendly" as long as she didn't enter a bank in the 1800s. Nordback's mask choice was a bandana.

Collecting the signatures is the first step. If they qualify, voters will have the final say in November.

"It's the best we can do, but it's still dangerous," said Arango.

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