So you want to get involved….
This month, we’re providing a “quick and dirty” guide to creating an Issue Committee (IC), a legal entity that will allow you to take your message to the public, to avoiding running afoul of electioneering and finance laws, and to oversee ballot processing to ensure that the integrity of the process is preserved.
We’ll begin with a simple explanation of what an IC is, how to get one started – and why you should care. Each week through the month of September, we’ll include further guides to move you along, covering campaign finance regulations and requirements, methods of getting your message out to your fellow citizens and how to become a poll watcher for your local elections and ballot initiatives. We will eventually expand this into a series of detailed articles available on our website but this initial turnkey guide will be enough to move you from being a passive observer to an active participant in the defense of your rights.
Before we begin, though, it’s important to note that you will want to consult legal counsel with experience in campaign law (which isn’t as difficult, expensive or scary as it sounds). This series of articles will share the lessons we have learned, what worked for us, potential pitfalls, and give you as many tools as possible to be successful, but keep in mind that we are not lawyers ourselves.
Why should I bother?
Our voting system doesn’t “just work.” It requires close observation and immediate action when it begins to break down. And while it’s natural to believe “the pros” keep things run smoothly, they’re just human like us and are prone to mistakes and biases. Just because things are running smoothly doesn’t mean they are running correctly.
Consider this: The special election in Castle Rock had some of the highest voter turnout in town history, in part because Issue Committees launched a “get out the vote” effort, putting out flyers, paying for advertising and commissioning robocalls to affected voters. People that might not have even been aware that an election was in process were educated and influenced to make their voices heard. And when the election became tarnished by procedural errors (both deliberate and unintentional) and legal challenges, the questionable activities of election officials would not have been brought to light if not observed and reported out by IC members acting as poll watchers.
Creating your Issue Committee means you become the final gatekeeper in election integrity and that you have a legal voice in ensuring that the public knows what is really at stake.
What exactly is an issue committee and how hard is it to form one?
If you form a group whose major purpose is supporting or opposing a ballot issue or question and has accepted and/or contributed or spent more than $200, you are required to form and register an Issue Committee using the “Transparency in Contribution and Expenditure Reporting” (TRACER) system. The Colorado Secretary of State’s website – https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/CampaignFinance/committee/issue.html – makes the process painfully simple but there are a few ducks you need to have in a row before being able to register.
First, you’ll need a registered agent. This person will need to provide an email and phone number and their name will be public. This can be intimidating for some but keep in mind that there are many free email services that you may use strictly for the issue at hand and that Google Voice allows you to route a virtual phone number to your personal phone without exposing its details. It is not illegal to create an insulating layer around your personal contact information to keep your “real life” separate from your committee.
You will need to provide a mailing address for your committee (a PO Box is acceptable), a committee name and acronym, and a detailed description of your purpose, including candidates, ballot measure numbers, or policy positions that you will support or oppose.
Finally, you will need to specify the bank at which you have (or will have) an account for the IC. Account numbers or specific branches will not be needed but the institution name must be accurate and an address must be provided.
Next week, we’ll talk about putting your money where your mouth is – understanding campaign finance laws (with the help of a lawyer), setting up a bank account, and collecting donations.
We hope you find this information useful but, more importantly, that you make use of this information!
The Board of Directors
Colorado Second Amendment Association