Avoid panic at the polls with the Telegraph’s
voting cheat sheet
It’s one thing for a voter to get him
or herself to the polls, and it’s another to understand
what to do once one gets there. Sure, there are the early voters,
people who meticulously study the League of Women Voters’
election handbook and approach the ballot like a placement test.
But then there’s the rest of us, who wait until 5 p.m. Tuesday
to entertain thoughts of heading to our precinct, if only we could
remember where it is.
This article is for the rest of us – think of it as a handy
voting cheat sheet. Not that we
condone cheating of any kind – especially when it comes
to the sanctity of American politics and the democratic system
– it’s just that sometimes, facing all those fill-in-the-dots
can be a little overwhelming. While some of the issues may be
no-brainers, voters can always count on a few obscure “judge
retentions” or referendums to throw them for a loop. But
now you can rest assured, knowing you did not unwittingly put
a pathological liar on the Supreme Court or vote to enact a Charles
Manson public holiday.
Here are some of the biggies on this year’s ballot:
-Wayne Allard/Republican (incumbent):
Elected to the Senate in 1996, this 58-year-old veterinarian from
Fort Collins counts playing the bagpipes and flying model airplanes
among his hobbies. His priorities are to balance the budget, reduce
the national debt, cut taxes and build up national defense. He
does not support same-sex couple adoption and favors overturning
Roe v. Wade.
-Tom Strickland/Democrat: Although he’s
Colorado’s chief federal prosecutor by day, Strickland could
very well double as an L.L. Bean poster boy in his off-time, fishing,
hunting, camping, hiking and skiing. Given a chance, he said he
would like to crack some corporate heads over the latest rash
of scandals and protect innocent people’s pensions. He also
would champion the cause of affordable health care and prescription
drugs. He supports same-sex couple adoptions and Roe v. Wade.
-Douglas “Dayhorse” Campbell/American
Constitution Party: We were not sure if “Dayhorse”
is Campbell’s god-given name or just his attempt to be funny.
We were similarly confused about some of his admitted past times:
square dancing and singing. Regardless of his humorous side, the
hard-line constitutionalist takes a no-nonsense approach to politics.
First item on his agenda would be to abolish “oppressive”
income taxes and knock the federal government down to size. He
does not support same-sex couple adoption and favors overturning
Roe v. Wade.
-Rick Stanley/Libertarian: This 48-year-old
Denver businessman is probably the most unique candidate on the
list and the only one to include his astrological sign (cancer)
on his Web site. He says he never had time for college but does
have enough to pursue a varied list of passions, including basketball,
rock ’n’ roll, history and art. Stanley, who is for
legalization of pot, will have his work cut out for him if elected,
including exposing the tyranny and treasonous acts of elected
officials. He supports same-sex couple adoptions and Roe v. Wade.
- John Heckman/Concerns of People Party:
There was little information on this obscure candidate or his
political preference except that he seems to be a stalwart candidate:
He previously ran for the Senate in 1990 and 1998 and for U.S.
Rep in 1994.
How we’ll vote: While a
pro-pot candidate is tempting, some of Stanley’s other attributes
scare us. We chose a more middle of the road approach with Strickland.
Besides, wouldn’t you rather have an elected official who
listens to the Stones and Bob Dylan than Allard who listens to
the Oak Ridge Boys and Glenn Miller.
U.S. Representative - District 3
-Scott McInnis/Republican (incumbent):
This former cop/lawyer from Glenwood is vying for his sixth 2-year
term. In his free time, the Fort Lewis College graduate likes
to listen to country music and hike or jog, although not necessarily
all at the same time. His top priorities are to preserve water,
reduce taxes and protect our “multiple-use tradition,”
which likely will include passage of his Healthy Forests bill.
Although a Republican, he does not support overturning Roe v.
Wade but does support a war in Iraq.
-Denis Berckefeldt/Democrat: Calling himself
the “accidental candidate” (he wasn’t even present
when nominated), this assistant to Senate Majority Leader Bill
Thiebaut (D-Pueblo) has opted to go the uncampaign route, with
no designs on actually winning. Rather, he said he is running
on principle, giving non-McInnis fans an option. Despite his lack
of a platform, he does have some views, particularly on universal
health care, an end to tax cuts to the rich and an opposition
to war in Iraq. When not uncampaigning, he enjoys fishing and
- J. Brent Shroyer/Libertarian: This businessman
and retired teacher from Rangely pledges to stop the erosion of
the Bill of Rights and return this nation to the course of liberty,
whatever that means. It’s safe to say Shroyer likes guns
and, if elected, would work to repeal “all of the recent
gun-control acts.” In his free time, he enjoys the music
of Brad Paisley (country, we presume), watching sports and travel.
-Gary Swing/Natural Law Party: This 34-year-old
performing arts promoter from Denver wins our Utopian award. He’s
got some nice ideals – namely abolishing nuclear, biological
and chemical weapons and taking a stand for truth, justice and
humanity – but at the end of the day, we’re not sure
how far that’ll get him. Needless to say, he’s against
war in Iraq and in favor of a Cesar Chavez state holiday.
How we’ll vote: Although
he has a snowball’s chance in hell, our vote will go to
Berckefeldt, if only for the fact that, as he points out, he’s
neither a politician nor a lawyer.
-Bill Owens (incumbent)-Jane Norton/Republican:
If Owens’ rally cry of “Expanding opportunity
for all Coloradans” and his pledge for improved education,
roads, health care and water conservation rings a bell, that’s
because it’s the same thing he said four years ago. Owens,
who graduated from Austin State University and is a pal of George
W.’s, touts his track record of reducing capital-gains,
dividend and interest taxes. When not running the state, he dabbles
in international affairs, Russian history and baseball.
Owens’ running mate, Grand Junction resident Norton, is
director of the State Department of Health and when not working
enjoys curling up with the Bible or People magazine.
Both candidates dance around the Roe v. Wade subject (“the
governor cannot appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices”) and
believe Colorado needs more dams.
-Rollie Heath-Bill Thiebaut/ Democrat:
Although this 64-year-old Boulder executive and Army veteran has
no formal political experience, Rollie likens running a state
to running a business. In addition to rising through the ranks
of a billion-dollar company, Heath says he has overseen more than
10,000 employees in his days. In addition to accusing the current
governorship of coming “dangerously close to squandering
our state’s future,” Health promises a rainy-day fund,
more jobs, better health coverage, more involvement in schools
and a long-term water plan. When not serving on any of a number
of civic posts, Heath prefers the more sublime joys of picking
wild asparagus and listening to Enya.
Heath’s running mate is Bill Thiebaut of Pueblo, a 16-year
veteran in the Colorado House and Senate, the last two as Senate
Both men support the Cesar Chavez holiday and Roe v. Wade. They
do not believe Colorado needs more dams or that the Pledge should
be required in public schools.
-Ronald Forthofer-Dan Winters/ Green:
Another Glenn Miller fan, Forthofer would like to wrest control
of the government from the hands of big money and focus on securing
the American dream for all Coloradans, which includes healing
our sick health-care system and cooling our warmed globe. He likes
to spend his free time bicycling the countryside and noshing at
the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Healthy Habits (at least until
it closed). His running mate is 65-year-old computer-whiz retiree,
Both support same-sex couple adoptions and Roe v. Wade, but do
not back more dams or the death penalty.
- Ralph Shnelvar-Desiree Hackett Hickson/Libertarian:
Freedom from an oppressive government is Shnelvar’s first
and foremost goal. When not fighting oppression, the 51-year-old
Boulderite enjoys following his favorite sport organization, the
Pakistani cricket team. His running mate is a 32-year-old mother
of three and small-business owner.
The two vary on some of their views. While Hickson does not support
overturning Roe v. Wade, Shnelvar does, although from a purely
constructionist standpoint, he says. And whereas Shnelvar supports
the death penalty, Hickson does not.
How we’re voting: Although
we were almost swayed by Owen’s professed passion for Journey,
the fact remains he has done little to deliver on his last campaign
promises – unless you consider more confusing, bureaucratic
testing an improvement. Our votes go with Heath.
- District 6
-Jim Isgar/Democrat (incumbent): Taking
over for former Sen. Jim Dyer, who left for a post on the Public
Utilities Commission but can still be spotted haunting the City
Market coffee cart, Isgar has been in office for little more than
a year. A rancher from Hesperus, Isgar is a mix of staunch Democrat
(his political role model is JFK) and down-home farm boy (his
favorite restaurant is his wife, Brenda’s, kitchen).
Isgar says he sees himself as the protector of West Slope interests,
namely water, from water hungry Front Rangers and California.
With the tight budget the state is facing, he also believes it
is important to protect families, children and the elderly –
“people who don’t have a lot of voice” –
from program cuts. He also feels there is a need to get funding
back for some programs Owens vetoed. When not rounding up doggies
or votes, Isgar enjoys hunting and listening to folk singer Hoyt
Axton. He does not support overturning Roe v. Wade and believes
same-sex couples should be able to adopt and that Colorado needs
more dams or rehabilitation of existing ones.
-Kay Alexander/Republican: Now in her
third two-year term as representative for House District 58, Alexander
has set her sights on the state Senate. A 30-year resident of
the Western Slope, she is married to Ben, a former senator for
District 6. The two live outside Montrose where they run a ranch.
In her spare time, Alexander can be found reading, skiing and
horseback riding. A lifelong rancher and farmer, she sees water
storage as one of the major issues facing the state. She also
has championed children and family causes, including passage of
a bill that made faith healing illegal.
She opposes Amendment 31 and voted to retain the Pledge of Allegiance
How we’re voting: Our vote
goes with the hometown boy. We like a guy who’s not afraid
to het hid hands dirty, yet still listens to folk music.
La Plata County commissioners
La Plata County Commissioner
Born and raised in La Plata County, Ayers believes she is the
right person to fill leaving commissioner Fred Klatt’s shoes.
“We need to replace him with someone with common sense and
fiscal responsibility; someone who will ask the hard questions
and make the tough decisions,” said Ayers, an accountant,
former teacher and recent grandmother.
Ayers said growth and water are the biggest concerns among residents,
with oil and gas and environment close behind. She believes the
Vallecito Water Co. may be the solution to water woes in the southeastern
county but believes those on the Dry Side may have to wait for
A-LP. She also believes water should be the determining factor
in growth, favors new development that incorporates clustering
and open space, and thinks transferable development rights need
When not politicking, she is active with her church and the Marvel
Grange and enjoys playing the piano and reading.
-Jean Walter/Democrat: Like her Republican
counterpart and friend, Walter is also a La Plata County native
and sees growth, water, and oil and gas as the biggest issues
facing residents. A Fort Lewis College grad, and manager of the
city’s human resources department, Walter would like to
see a long-term water plan put into place as well as stricter
land-use codes. She also thinks special attention should be paid
to maintaining as much agricultural land as possible.
How we’re voting: Although
we think both women have similar stances on the issues, our vote
goes to Ayers, who was the only commissioner candidate who bothered
to call us back.
La Plata County sheriff
Though transvestism and kidnapping
in New Mexico is no longer a component of the race for La Plata
County Sheriff, it has been a hot one with write-in candidate
Steve O’Neil leveling numerous allegations, including domestic
abuse, against incumbent Duke Schirard.
-Duke Schirard/Republican (incumbent):
Schirard is seeking his third four-year term, buoyed by his heroics
and endless work during the summer of wildfire. Schirard has worked
in local law enforcement for the last 26 years and as Sheriff
for the last eight. He says his record speaks for itself.
“In the last eight years, we’ve managed to solve and
successfully prosecute every major crime that’s occurred
in La Plata County. I think with the job we’ve done at the
Sheriff’s Office, we should be allowed to continue.”
Having won 85 percent of the vote during the Republican primary
in August, Schirard is entering the election with some confidence.
“I’m just looking forward to the election being over
so I can get back to my job,” he said.
-Steve O-Neil/Republican (write-in): O’Neil
moved to La Plata County in 1997 after working as a New York state
trooper for more than 20 years. O’Neil advocates saving
money by keeping non-violent criminals out of jail and monitored
at home. He also is a proponent of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally,
which Schirard has traditionally opposed. He adds that he’s
in favor of an open Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m honest, hard-working and open-minded,”
he said. “If there are some better ideas out there and they’ll
improve the Sheriff’s Office, I’m willing to listen.”
O’Neil is optimistic, in spite of coming up two signatures
short of qualifying for the ballot in the first place.
How we’re voting: We’re
with Duke, the man’s record speaks for itself. And somehow,
we question the openness and accessibility of O’Neil, whose
unlisted phone number sent us into deep investigative mode.
Referred measures 3A and 3B
Also known as the school bond
issue, these actually are a $84.5 million bond issue
(3B) and a $2.4 million annual mill levy override (a tax increase
in laymen’s terms). The $84 million will go toward school
upgrades and renovations and, in the case of Riverview Elementary,
a whole new school. Nearly 50 years of wear and tear has taken
a toll, including corroded and leaky pipes, boilers at the breaking
point, and wood floors sanded down to the nub. And did we mention
the asbestos? This is all in addition to the overcrowding, which
has forced classes into hallways, broom closets and anywhere students
can be crammed in.
As for the $2.4 million a year, that will go toward paying teachers
respectable salaries so they don’t have to flip burgers
to make ends meet and cover upkeep of all the new equipment so
leaky radiators won’t have to be fixed with duct tape.
For an owner of a $250,000 home, this translates into about $38
a year to cover the $2.4 million and another $18 or so to cover
the bond issue. However, the amount owed over the bond issue is
expected to increase over the life of the bond (about 20 to 25
years) and could reach as high as $94, making for a grand total
of $132 a year for said homeowner.
Pros: Warm feeling knowing you are not
contributing to the delinquency and endangerment of Durango’s
Cons: If you are lucky enough to own a
$250,000 home, you could be out $132 a year, roughly the amount
of loose change that falls between your couch cushions.
How we’re voting: We believe
that children are the future.
The rest of the ballot
In addition to the hot-button
issues and races, there are several routine elections that, to
most voters, are about as interesting as watching paint dry and
are typically voted along party lines. Before your eyes gloss
over, we’ll give you a quick rundown of these items, the
main players involved and, if it’s a referendum or amendment,
some pros and cons, and, of course, how we plan to vote.
Secretary of state: Donetta Davidson,
R, (incumbent) faces Democrat challenger Anthony Martinez, a young
entrepreneurial whipper-snapper from the San Luis Valley. In case
you don’t know, the secretary of state is the state’s
top election official (think the well-cosmeticized Katharine Harris
from the Gore-Bush debacle in Florida.) Davidson has been in office
since 1999 and has had no major scandals rock her tenure that
we know of.
Also running: David Aitken, Libertarian,
and Clyde J. Harkins, American Constitution Party
How we’re voting: We like
Martinez, mostly because part of his Web site is in Espanol and
he counts Romero’s in Silverton as one of his favorite restaurants.
State Treasurer: Mike Coffman, R, (incumbent)
squares off against District 13 State Senator Terry Phillips,
from the Denver-Boulder area. As most people know, the treasurer
is in charge of holding the state’s purse strings.
Also running: Michael Sanchez, Reform
Party, and Gaar Potter, Libertarian.
How we’re voting: We’d
call Coffman a tight wad, but we’re afraid the ex-marine
would come after us. Nevertheless, we’re voting for Phillips.
Attorney General: Defender of the title,
Ken Salazar, D, (incumbent) takes on Marti Allbright, R, a Denver
lawyer. During his first four years in office, Salazar overhauled
the sex-offender registry and prosecuted those responsible (including
the feds) for polluting dozens of sites across Colorado, including
the Summitville Mine and Alamosa River watershed.
Also running: Dwight Harding, Libertarian,
and Alison “Sunny” Maynard, Green.
How we’re voting: Although
Allbright has a politically-promising last name, we cannot bring
ourselves to vote for anyone who considers Secretary of Interior
Gail Norton an idol. We’ll play it safe with Salazar.
State Board of Education: Pam Suckla,
R, (incumbent), a rancher from the Dove Creek area, faces Christine
Pacheco-Kovelaski, D, from Pueblo.
How we’re voting: It’s
hard to get passionate about school board races, but for this
one, we say go with your heart (which in our case is leftist in
State Senate District 6: It’s lonely
at the top, and perhaps no one knows this better than Larson,
the Cortez Republican who is running against a field of none.
How we’re voting: In a rare
move, we’re going Republican on this one, and not just because
we have to. We happen to like Larson because he is a regular guy
who has mopped his fair share of floors and slopped green chili
at the M&M – all that and he’s not afraid to pack
Aside from sheriffs and commissioners, there is little to get
excited about in La Plata County this year. Four of the seven
races are uncontested, and no one will go near the open coroner
spot with a 10-foot scalpel. Barring a bizarre act of God, expect
Clerk and Recorder Linda Daley, Treasurer Edward Murray and Surveyor
Larry Connolly to be sitting pretty come Tuesday night. As for
the open coroner seat, it’s up to the county commissioners
to fill that one.
There is a little flap over the county assessor spot, which has
been held by Craig Larson, D, for 15 years. He is being challenged
by Patty Dressel, unaffiliated, a fellow Assessor’s Office
employee. The assessor has a sort of vague job description, something
about determining the value of property for tax purposes, but
we’re sure it’s very important nonetheless.
How we’re voting: We plan on voting for all the uncontested
candidates (hey, at least someone has enough interest to run)
as well as Larson, because we can’t think of a good reason
These ones throw us every year, fortunately because most of us
have little or no experience in the court system. Each year, judges
coming up for retention are judged by a panel of their peers and
given the “yea” or “ixnay” in a report.
So unless you suffer form severe insomnia and wish to read said
reports, we recommend taking their word for it. This year Colorado
Supreme Court Justice Nathan Coats, and Court of Appeals judges
John Dailey and Henry Nieto all passed, as did La Plata County
Court Judge Martha Minot and Judge David Dickinson, of the 6th
Finance: This proposed change to the state constitution
would set limits on how much money can be contributed to candidates,
offer incentives to candidates who stay within a preset limit
and require disclosure of who pays for political ads. A similar
measure was passed in 1996 but overruled by a federal court, leading
legislators to install higher limits more to their liking.
Pros: Could reduce the impact of special
interest groups on election outcomes and help level the financial
playing field among newcomers and incumbents.
Cons: Could cause wealthy donors to find
sneakier ways to funnel money to a campaign, giving candidates
less control and special interests more. Also could mean candidates
spend more time stumping for funds than the issues.
How we’ll vote: Although some
charge this will limit basic freedoms, that of people being able
to spend their money any way they damn well please, we think any
step in separating politics and money is a step in the right direction.
Amendment 28/Mail-In Ballots: This proposal
would require that most elections held after Jan. 1, 2005, be
conducted via mail ballot. All signatures would be verified by
Pros: Convenience may increase the number
of voters (in 2002, mail-in ballots had 9 percent more participation
that traditional polling methods.)
Cons: Mail ballots are vulnerable to fraud
and the whims of the U.S. Postal Service. Furthermore, the signature-verification
process is sketchy and people voting by mail could be subject
to peer pressure and coercion tactics.
How we’ll vote: We like the
idea of being able to vote at leisure. People who worry about
peer pressure and fraud are just paranoid ninnies.
Amendment 30/Election-Day Registration:
Would abolish the current 29-day advance registration rule in
favor of election-day registration starting in 2004.
Pros: May increase voter participation
and streamline the confusing voting process. Also would make voting
more accessible to new residents, college students and rural residents,
who don’t get out often.
Cons: Allowing people to register on election
day would increase opportunities for voter fraud, and once a ballot
has been cast, that vote cannot be undone if fraud is discovered.
Besides, Coloradans already have ample opportunities to register
and election-day registration could prove expensive.
How we’ll vote: Voting should
not be a hassle with random rules and waiting periods. We like
the idea of instant gratification.
Amendment 31/English-Language Education:
Would require all public school students, after a one-year English-immersion
program, be placed in English-only classes. Parents could request
a waiver from the school to exempt their children from the requirement.
Pros: Could keep English learners from
falling behind, provide a consistent policy for teaching English
learners and prevent segregation.
Cons: Could restrict control for parents
who want their children to be bilingual, may dissuade schools
from granting waivers for fear of legal ramifications and mandates
an unreasonable timeframe for children to become fluent.
How we’ll vote: We don’t
care how smart you are, you’re not going to learn English
in a year, nor should you have to.
Referendum A/Exempt District Attorneys from Term
Limits: Would reverse a 1994 initiative that limited political
offices to two four-year terms.
Pros: Could allow residents to retain
experience of D.A.s and may help smaller counties that have trouble
attracting new candidates. Further, new D.A.s may find themselves
in over their heads when taking over complex cases.
Cons: Term limits provide checks and balances
and may provide a bigger, more varied pool of candidates. More
competition could lead to more aggressive prosecution.
How we’ll vote: Yanking a
prosecutor from a case midway through could have detrimental effects.
If voters don’t like a particular office holder, let them
enact term limits at the polls.
Referendum B/Public Ownership of Health Facilities:
Would OK partnerships between local governments and private
companies for the purpose of providing health care but governments
would be prohibited from going into debt with such endeavors.
Pros: Could expand the types of services
available in underserved areas while keeping existing facilities
open and affordable.
Cons: Market demands should dictate where
and what services are offered, and government partnerships risk
tax dollars. Also, private companies may try to push their own
agendas, based upon profit margins.
How we’ll vote: Any chance
at expanded, affordable health care should be pounced upon.
Referendum C/Coroner Qualifications : Would
establish qualification for county coroners.
Pros: Training would help ensure coroners
have the know-how to determine the cause of death in an efficient
Cons: Qualifications may narrow the pool
of candidates and make filling the office more difficult, especially
in rural area.
How we’ll vote: You mean qualifications
aren’t already required?
Referendum D/Obsolete Constitutional Wording:
Would remove expired provisions, strike obsolete references and
remove a congressional term-limits provision deemed unconstitutional
Pros: Would streamline an already crowded
document by ridding it of irrelevant articles.
Cons: Would destroy the historical character
of the document and make research difficult. Also would erase
the stated will of the people in the off chance the term-limits
decision is reversed.
How we’ll vote: While ridding
the constitution of excess baggage is needed, we are a little
suspicious of an ulterior motive here on the part of power-hungry
legislators trying to sneak one by us.
Referendum E/Cesar Chavez Legal Holiday:
Would designate March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day, a paid holiday for
state employees, to honor the man who founded the United Farm
Pros: Such an observance is important
to Colorado’s Hispanics, who account for 17 percent of the
population. Also, the holiday would bring Colorado to 11 paid
holidays, the average in other states.
Cons: Another state holiday may pose a
hardship on those who depend on state services. Also, the holiday
will cost the state $477,000 in holiday wages, which would require
cuts elsewhere in the budget.
How we’ll vote: Why not? Anyone
who organized a boycott of lettuce on college campuses, or dorm
food in general, is all right with us.