THE PODIUM | Some recommended reforms following my run for governor
Author: Doug Robinson - August 1, 2018 - Updated: August 1, 2018
While losing hurts a lot, the past four weeks have been a great opportunity to spend time with my family, unwind, and do some reflecting on the past year. As a first-time candidate, I learned a number of lessons about the electoral process and wanted to share my thoughts about improvements we can and should make for statewide candidates. These changes will make the process more fair and protect the democratic nature of our elections.
Campaign Finance Reform
Campaign finance in Colorado needs to be reformed. The current maximum contribution limit of $1,150 is too low. While the intent of this very low limit was to restrain the power of big money, in practice it adds to that power, making it possible for only the super rich and those with ties to out of state special interests to be able to raise the money required to have a shot at winning statewide. This is not good for our democratic process.
I propose two changes which the next governor and legislature should enact:
- Raise the contribution limit to $5,000 per individual for statewide candidates. This is the most common limit among the states. Both of our neighboring states, Nebraska and Utah have no limits, and in California the limit is $29,200 for Gubernatorial candidates. This change should allow strong candidates the ability to raise enough money in state to run a competitive campaign.
- Limit personal contributions to $500,000 This will still allow candidates to contribute in a significant way to their campaigns without completely boxing out grassroots candidates, requiring that candidates get the ultimate support — a check from their supporters – to run a statewide effort.
Petition Gathering Reform
In recent years, we’ve faced drama with petition gathering efforts. In just about every cycle, candidates must go to court to get on the ballot. We can make changes which would be better for the campaigns and for the public.
- Allow campaigns to pre-approve petition gatherers. This could be done through an online form in advance of the petition gathering window. This way campaigns and the public would know in advance that gatherers were legitimate.
- Use technology to immediately validate gathered signatures. Many states employ a smartphone app, which takes a picture of the signature and within a second or two verifies whether the signature is valid.
- Pass legislation requiring the Secretary of State’s Office to enforce petition requirements. This will allow them to certify technical compliance, rather than taking minor issues to a judge. For example, determining that Katie Smith and Kathryn Smith are the same person.
Making changes to our campaign finance and ballot access process will make Colorado elections more fair for future generations.