American government students at Fort Lewis College have produced nonpartisan, informational videos to aid voters as they decide how to cast their vote on 11 of the 13 ballot measures they’ll face in the Nov. 6 General Election.
“We were looking to spur on more participation and engagement among students in the civic side of things,” said professor Michael Dichio, whose students produced the videos, which are available on FLC’s YouTube page.
Studies have shown students who are more engaged in civic issues in their communities are more likely to remain in college and will be more likely to become involved in their communities as they age, Dichio said.
Julie Marqua said her research and work on Amendment Y, which would create a 12-member commission to redraw Colorado’s congressional districts after each census, aided her.
“I personally really like to be very informed before I take a stance on an issue, so I thought this was a great way to gather information,” said Marqua, a 20-year-old sophomore, who is a double major in business and music.
Marqua concluded she would support Amendment Y.
“I think it’s a good idea to give redistricting to a bipartisan committee rather than leaving it up to the state General Assembly,” she said.
Students presented their videos to the public last week at a forum they hosted with the La Plata County League of Women Voters and got feedback on their products.
“I was pleased the students made a concerted effort to keep the videos nonpartisan,” Dichio said. “It’s a very hard thing to do in an age of 24-hour news and smartphones.”
Dichio said students heard from community members with additional ideas to remove any remaining traces of bias in the videos.
This was the first year students have produced videos on ballot issues, and Dichio said he is likely to keep it as part of the syllabus in future election years. He said he would like to add more public events to present the videos to get additional feedback from voters.
The videos were also part of a wider project by FLC’s Political Science Department to increase student participation in midterm elections.
According to the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education study “National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement”, 41.1 percent of FLC students voted in the 2016 General Election compared with a 50.4 percent average for all U.S. universities and colleges. In La Plata County, 71.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
In the 2014 midterm election, 19.8 percent of FLC students voted compared with 19.1 percent average for all higher education campuses. In La Plata County, 54.2 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
“We want to increase the sense of civic engagement on campus,” said Dichio’s partner in the project, political science professor Paul DeBell. “We want to show students that their voices matter, and they can make a difference.”
The videos produced and shared on YouTube cover these ballot initiatives:
Amendment 73 is sponsored by Great Schools, Thriving Communities and seeks to raise $1.6 billion for public K-12 education funding through a tax increase on people with incomes above $150,000 per year, along with an increase in the corporate tax rate.
Amendment 75 would change contribution limits when candidates contribute or loan $1 million or more of their own funds to their campaigns. The contribution limits would increase five times for the candidate’s opponent(s).
Amendment A is a second bite at the apple to remove language allowing “slavery” as punishment for a crime from the state constitution. A similar measure in 2016 lost by just six-tenths of 1 percent, about 16,000 votes short out of 2.5 million votes cast. But almost 280,000 of those voters didn’t vote on the 2016 measure, which may have been attributable to confusion about what the measure would do.
Amendment V would lower the minimum age for service in the General Assembly from 25 to 21 years of age. Were Colorado voters to adopt this measure, it would put the state in line with 43 other states that allow House representatives to be somewhere between ages 18 to 21. About half of the states allow senators to be that same age.
Amendment X would take the definition of industrial hemp out of the state constitution, leaving the definition up to state or federal law. Hemp is a version of cannabis with almost no THC, the main psychoactive constituent of marijuana, and is used in products including textiles and food products.
Amendments Y and Z deal with how the state draws its congressional and legislative maps. Currently, the General Assembly draws those maps, which has resulted in court battles in which judges eventually drew the maps, both after the 2000 and 2010 censuses.Amendment Y pertains to drawing of congressional maps. This becomes even more important because Colorado is likely to add an eighth congressional seat after the 2020 census. Amendment Z applies to the state maps for the 35 Senate seats and 65 House seats.
Proposition 109 would direct the state to raise $3.5 billion in bond for 66 identified highway projects. The bonds would be paid for with existing state revenues, up to as much as $250 million per year.
Proposition 110, seen as an alternative to 109, would increase the state sales tax by 6 cents on a $10 purchase, and use those dollars to finance $6 billion of the state’s $9 billion transportation wish list, for about 137 projects.
Proposition 111 would cap interest rates and fees on payday loans to 36 percent, down from the high of 180 percent.
Proposition 112 would establish a 2,500-foot setback between occupied buildings and new oil and gas development, up from the current buffer of 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.