A few voters could decide tax issues
In the 2004 general election, 66 percent of registered voters in Moffat County cast a ballot.
During off-year elections, such as the election this November, voter turnout is typically lower than in general elections.
In 2003, the last off-year election, 34 percent of Moffat County’s registered voters cast ballots. In 1995, 11 percent made it to the polls.
Moffat County’s November ballot won’t have very many political offices up for grabs, but it will have at least three tax questions, possibly four.
Horizons Specialized Services is asking for a 1-mill property tax to benefit people with mental retardation.
On the state level, Referendums C and D ask voters to allow the state to keep revenues that would otherwise be given back to taxpayers under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
Moffat County commissioners will vote today on whether to place another tax issue on the ballot asking citizens to let the county keep property tax revenues that would otherwise be refunded.
If Moffat County’s trend of low voter turnout continues, a small minority could decide the outcome of all four taxing measures.
Christine Burtt, a political consultant working with Horizons on the mill levy, said voters who show up during off-year elections tend to be better informed and a tougher audience than voters in general elections.
“They tend to be pretty sophisticated voters,” Burtt said. “You don’t put anything over on them.”
Burtt has worked on political campaigns throughout Colorado.
She said having the mill levy on an off-year ballot makes passing it a little more difficult.
“You have to make a solid case to the voters,” Burtt said. “They care less about sound bites and more about substance.”
Since Colorado passed TABOR in 1992, the number of ballot questions asking for increased taxes or for refund exemptions has risen steadily, putting more power in the hands of off-year voters.
According to a Bell Policy Center study, in the 10 years before TABOR, Coloradans voted on seven fiscal measures in six statewide elections.
In the 10 years after TABOR, Coloradans voted on 14 fiscal measures in 10 elections.
Bell Policy President Wade Buchanan said TABOR has resulted in more voter participation because it requires voters to approve tax increases, but it also has diminished representative democracy because fewer people decide some fiscal measures.
“Both sides can be supported by the numbers,” Buchanan said.
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