We’re down to the final countdown of one of the strangest election cycles in recent memory. Forget about the presidential race for a moment (if you can). Before the last votes are cast on November 8, here’s a roundup of Colorado’s most notable news stories from the election’s final weeks.
1. Banning Ballot Selfies
Coloradans can post a photo of a blank ballot, or one sealed in an envelope that’s ready to mail. But to the surprise of many voters, an 1895 law makes it illegal for Colorado voters to share ballot selfies that reveal how they voted. The intent of the law is to prevent voter coercion. Colorado is facing two recent lawsuits claiming the ban violates the First Amendment right to free speech. Update: Go ahead and pose: A federal judge ruled on November 4 that ballot selfies are legal free speech in Colorado. State officials may not enforce laws that prohibit Coloradans from taking selfie photos with their completed voting ballots, the judge said.
2. A Fiery Campaign Ad
PolitiFact Colorado awarded its “Pants On Fire!” rating to a campaign ad claiming State Senate candidate Rachel Zenzinger once voted to use taxpayer money for a junket to China while she was on the Arvada City Council. Zenzinger never went to China, and actually sponsored a vote against spending taxpayer funds on any possible trip. She filed a complaint against Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government, which sent the false mailers to voters, for violating state election laws. Zenzinger is challenging Republican Laura Woods in Arvada/Westminster Senate District 19, a race that could determine what party controls the legislature.
3. First Transgender Candidate
Democrat Misty Plowright, a 33-year-old technology consultant, is the first openly transgender person in Colorado to win a major party’s nomination for a U.S. Congressional race. She’s battling Republican Doug Lamborn to represent Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, where Republicans outnumber Democrats nearly two-to-one. Plowright points to the area’s unaffiliated voters, who are about a third of the electorate, and the district’s broad Libertarian streak, which could bolster her chances of victory.
4. Biggest Ballot Spender
Big tobacco is one of the biggest outside spenders on any state ballot initiative in Colorado history, making a $17 million investment to defeat Amendment 72. The measure would triple the state tax on cigarettes to $2.59 a pack, up from 84 cents per pack in order to discourage kids (and adults) from smoking. It would also raise taxes on other tobacco products, excluding e-cigarettes, to fund medical research, health clinics in low-income areas, and services for veterans.
5. Bravest Political Endorsement
Many newspaper editors broke long-held traditions this year to endorse a Democrat for president. But one editorial board was especially courageous. After student journalists at the Bear Truth, the newspaper at Palmer Ridge High School in Colorado Springs, endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for President, outraged parents demanded their suspension from school in emails and on social media. Colorado is one of nine states that provides high school publications with extra free speech protections under the Colorado Student Free Expression Law.
6. Most Active Battleground
Colorado ranked first in the nation for political engagement, according to an analysis of our voter registration, turnout, and individual donations to presidential campaigns. The Centennial State boasted a 70 percent voter participation rate in 2012, and continues to engage voters as a critical swing state in presidential elections. Will this year’s mail-in ballots boost that number even higher?
7. Worst-Timed Campaign Visit
As Donald Trump Jr. arrived in Denver for an October campaign trip, news broke about a joke he made about the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012 on the Opie and Anthony radio show. On the same day that 12 people were killed and dozens were wounded, he responded to the news by saying: “Overall, I give the movie two thumbs up.” Among outraged Coloradans was Sandy Phillips, mother of shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, who called the remarks “disturbing and painful.”
8. Most Impactful Youth Vote
Colorado is one of the nation’s top five states where younger voters are likely to have an outsized impact in the election, according to CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement). Thanks to convenient online and same-day registration, voter turnout is growing among our state’s 786,000 citizens under 30—the fastest-growing group in Colorado.
9. Worst Election Side Effect
More than half of Americans say the 2016 election causes significant stress, reports the American Psychological Association (APA). The tension is the same for Democrats and Republicans, but age makes a difference: Millennials and Baby Boomers are most likely to feel election anxiety. The APA’s stress-relieving tips: Avoid the media, find welcome (and local!) distractions like volunteering, and exercise your power by voting.
10. Nicest Pick-Me-Up
Canada thinks we’re great! In a social media campaign using the hashtag #tellamericaitsgreat, Canadians are sending compliments and positive encouragement to election-weary Americans. Coloradans can be proud: National parks, craft beers, John Denver, the Mars mission, and the Denver Broncos all got shout-outs. The campaign gained international attention, as well as a grateful social media response: #tellcanadathanks.