When it comes to politics, Americans are polarized, and Coloradans are no exception. There might be widespread consensus that they live in the most beautiful state. They might mostly agree that the 2012 Rockies are a disaster or that Payton Manning is a disappointment.
About any political issue or candidate, though, some will be passionate for and some will be passionately against, and a few will be passionate in their conviction that politics is a darn poor way to run a country. A few dreamers wonder why we cannot get along.
And more than a few people just plain will not care. Shame on them, although perhaps they cannot be blamed for failing to puzzle out the best course or to believe that their vote will help. The polarization, and the nastiness and dishonesty it engenders, can discourage the most responsible citizen.
In this era of outlandish political rhetoric calculated not to inform but to inflame and, too often, to mislead, some organizations do seek to provide solid factual information. Two that are particularly helpful to local voters are the League of Women Voters and the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly.
According to its website, the League of Women Voters was organized shortly before the ratification of the 19th Amendment as a mighty political experiment to help women responsibly wield their hard-won right to vote.
It encouraged them to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grass-roots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy. It was then, and is now, a nonpartisan organization. League founders believed maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics of the day.
The League researches issues and publishes analyses. It informs citizens and students about the functions of government and the mechanisms of representative democracy. Locally, it hosts informational meetings and candidate forums.
In short, the League of Women Voters contributes a great deal toward civic education and participation.
The Legislative Council performs many functions for state legislators, including researching the potential ramifications of proposed legislation. For local residents, it publishes the Blue Book, the State Ballot Information Booklet that provides objective information, in calm language, about the pros and cons of ballot issues, provided by proponents and opponents themselves. It also reports the recommendations of the Commissions on Judicial Performance that recommend retention or replacement of county, district and state judges.
At the end of September each election year, the booklets arrive, addressed to All Registered Voters at an address. Many copies are probably discarded, unread. This booklet, however, may be the single most comprehensively informative document most voters will have in their hands, and it is a tremendous service to those who understand the solemn responsibility of casting a ballot.
These two groups, among others, deserve the thanks of local residents who care about facts and who cherish political civility. Those who read the Blue Book and attend League events are better equipped to see past the fiery rhetoric to the right choices, and they should be grateful for that gift.