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Voters Deserve a Mulligan on Term Limits Question

June 22, 2011

Colorado Springs — A long-simmering dispute about whether El Paso county voters were misled in 2010, when they approved a ballot measure extending term limits for county commissioners from 2 to 3 terms, may reach a turning point next week, when an undecided county commission receives public input on whether voters are due a second chance at the question this fall. Americans for Prosperity Colorado believes they are, and vowed this week to use all the activists and resources at its disposal to convince undecided commissioners that putting the question back on the ballot was the right thing to do.

Saying that he saw this “as a fundamental question of good government and transparency,” AFP State Director Jeff Crank said the group would be launching a multi-pronged effort to get the necessary votes, which would include radio ads, “action alerts” to activist and generating turnout and public comment at next Monday’s hearing on the issue. “Voters approved the term limits extension based on ballot language that even county officials concede was confusing and some say misleading, and that has left a bitter taste in many mouths,” said Crank. “I would be shocked if every county commissioner didn’t support giving voters another shot at the question.”

Crank said he hoped a little pressure from AFP’s citizen activists would lead to clearer thinking.

Many observers of the local political scene were surprised in 2010 when the conservative bastion of El Paso County voted strongly in favor of waiving term limits for certain county offices, including commissioners. Accusations soon followed that voters may have been misled by tricky ballot language approved by county officials, one of whom later conceded that the phrases were carefully crafted to get a desired outcome. The question read as follows — “Shall persons elected to the office of County Commissioner be limited to serving three (3) consecutive terms, a modification of the current limits permitted by Article XVIII, Section 11 of the Colorado Constitution?” – but voters weren’t informed that there were at the time two-term limits in place, and that by voting “yes” they were voting to extend terms of office. Many voters later said they thought they were voting to enforce existing limits, not extend them.

While a majority of county commissioners have said they believe the language was misleading, three commissioners – Sallie Clark, Amy Lathen and Dennis Hisey – have not yet committed to putting the question to voters again this fall, using better and clearer ballot language. Commissioners Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn have already agreed to support a re-do for voters. “Because public confidence in our county commissioners is so important, the only way to truly ensure continued confidence in El Paso County commissioners is to place new term limit question on the 2011 ballot, which clearly explains that voters are choosing between 2 and 3 terms,” said Crank. Doing this will cost the county money, concedes Crank. “But what price do you put on upholding public trust and election integrity?” Complaints about the added costs should be filed with those who decided to play self-serving games with the ballot language, said Crank.

The commissioners will be taking public comment on the issue Monday, June 27th at 6:30 p.m. at the Pikes Peak Regional Building Office, 2880 International Circle in Colorado Springs. AFP Colorado urges all interested parties to attend the meeting and make their views known.

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