Our Stance: New Era’s not-so-independent voting guide

In less than a week, Americans will have their last chance to elect Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton the 45th president of the United States. This election cycle has been notable for a seemingly endless number of reasons, not the least of which includes the historically-high unfavorability ratings of the two major candidates for office.

Many voters therefore find themselves in a position where they have to decide which candidate is the lesser of two evils. In the process of making this decision, Boulder voters may turn to the 2016 voter guide released by the New Era Colorado Action Fund. But proceed with caution if you plan on doing so: New Era’s independent voting guide is, in reality, far from being non-partisan.

New Era Colorado is a two-pronged nonprofit organization, made up of the 501(c)3 New Era Colorado Foundation and a 501(c)4 political advocacy group called the New Era Colorado Action Fund. The former mainly engages in voter registration, and the latter in voter education.

While the two parts of New Era perform distinct roles, the lines between them are often blurred. For the most part, they are presented as one and the same under the umbrella name New Era Colorado. The separations between the two are stated as a side note on each respective part’s website. But in practice, voters could only become aware of this separation if they have a vested interest in doing so.

That is an issue because the foundation aspect of New Era is independent in both theory and practice, whereas the political advocacy arm is not. Despite the fact that they present their voter guide and other methods of voter education as non-partisan, there is a clear liberal bias in their products.

The voter guide is far from independent. This guide compares Clinton to Trump, as well as the candidates from Colorado for the U.S. Senate and those for CU Regent At-Large, on three issues. While the issues vary within each respective category, there is a common thread: They all relate to things that liberal voters tend to care about. These include abortion rights, clean energy and student debt. What is not included, in any category, are issues related to the economy, taxes or foreign policy.

Not only are the issues chosen from a liberal perspective, they are also ones which draw sharp divides between Democrats and Republicans. They can all be answered in a yes or no answer, making it seem like the proposed policies of the candidates in each category are far more simple than could ever be in reality. This could easily cause a voter who falls somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum to sway left, because they are otherwise unaware of the complex positions the candidates actually have when it comes to the myriad of issues at play in this election.

Furthermore, the guide provides advice on the various ballot measures included in this year’s election. Here, the bias of the guide is unquestionable; rather than simply explaining what the measures would do, New Era states how they would vote on them and why.

All of this runs counter to the statement of independence made on the cover of the voter guide. While most reasonable Boulder residents who pick up this guide would detect its liberal bias, New Era should not claim that something is nonpartisan when it clearly is not. This is especially pertinent given the blurred lines that exist between their action fund and their foundation.

The New Era Colorado Foundation does good work registering people to vote, and it is truly non-partisan. The New Era Colorado Action Fund may do equally good work educating voters, but this does not mean their biases should be overlooked.

Transparency is the most important aspect of any group that is politically engaged. Until New Era makes it clear to the public that the two parts of their organization are separate in both action and allegiance, they cannot and should not present themselves as politically independent.

Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Emily McPeak at emily.mcpeak@colorado.edu.

Emily McPeak

Emily McPeak is an undergraduate student who writes about society and politics. She is studying journalism and political science.

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