Boulder to demonstrate new online petitioning software

Boulder City Council in a Tuesday study session will learn how to use the new online petitioning software created by Runbeck that the city says will be ready in January and available for the 2021 election cycle.

Work on the software has been in process since December when the city opted to contract with the Arizona-based election services company after a request for proposals. The decision follows a November 2018 election in which Boulder voters approved a charter amendment allowing for electronic endorsement of initiative petitions.

City staff maintain Runbeck was the best option, although some Boulder residents and members of the city’s former campaign finance working group pushed for MapLight, a nonprofit that develops software for nonprofits and governments.

According to previous reporting by the Camera, MapLight produced two “open source” systems, in which the programming code for the petitioning software could have been accessed and modified in a collaborative manner with the city. The programming code is the part of the software that most users do not see. It’s what computer programmers use to manipulate or change how a program works.

However, when MapLight responded to Boulder’s request for proposal, the offer was not for free development, according to a city staff memo provided in a previous council meeting.

A March Camera article said MapLight’s maintenance costs for its system would have cost the city $58,000 during the first year, $60,000 and up to $62,000 during the third year of Boulder using the software, according to city staff.

The four-year contract with Runbeck consists of monthly payments by the city for the system’s development up to about $250,000, with $80,000 per year in expected maintenance costs, city staff told Council.

Some members of the working group felt their voice wasn’t given enough weight in the process, and a