This year has been hard. Even for those of us in the best of circumstances during the pandemic, with some level of job security and have been able to work from home while also finding some previously unknown reserve of patience to actually muddle through supporting a child with remote learning fifth grade common core math. It has still been hard. And it has been nearly intolerable and unsustainable for so many who were struggling with significantly less than ideal situations with income and housing and family dynamics and exposure risk.
It has been exhausting, down to a level of every fiber of our collective being.
But on top of the pandemic (and climate change fueled disasters, and civil rights movements, and the deaths of beloved public figures), it is an election year. The months and weeks and days and hours leading up to Election Day felt like we were moving to the climax, the pinnacle, the point of no return in this dystopian novel that is 2020.
We waited. Ballots were counted. Percentage leads shifted by fractions of decimals. Time slowed even more, and the election dragged on for nearly a week as we sat and watched.
We sat through Tuesday evening’s early and incomplete results on pins and needles, vividly remembering a similar night four years ago and how it unfolded. We sat through Wednesday, trying to be patient and to hold onto hope. We sat through Thursday, pretending to still be functioning humans at work while constantly staring at the electoral map in the corner of our screens. We sat through Friday, where we so badly wanted resolution and kept thinking we were maybe—just maybe—almost there but could not yet take a deep breath.
Never count your chickens before they’re hatched. And sworn in.
Until Saturday morning. The five days of nail biting and compulsive refreshing of news browsers ended, as Pennsylvania was called and Kamala Harris became the first woman vice president elected in our country’s history. Notably, she is also the first Black person, the first Indian American, first Asian American, and the first child of immigrants to hold the office. Hillary Clinton put a whole lot of cracks in the glass ceiling under the office of the presidency four years ago; eight years before that, Barack Obama broke through as a person of color. In 2020, Kamala Harris shattered both of those ceilings for the vice presidency.
Joe Biden was there, too, as the next president-elect. Congrats Joe.
Some other historical election highlights on the national stage include a record number of 134 women holding congressional seats (greater than the then-record-setting 2018 midterms); a record number of Native members and Native American women elected to congress, along with the first openly transgender senator (Sarah McBride from Delaware); the first openly transgender person of color to be elected to a state legislature (Stephanie Byers from Kansas); the first Korean American woman to be elected to congress (Marilyn Strickland from Washington state); and the first openly gay Black and Latino congressmen (Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones from New York).
It will still be a hard two months until January 20, 2021, but we are moving forward with the long-overdue and painstakingly slow progress of elevating of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ persons to critical leadership positions on the national stage. A huge number of people worked tirelessly behind the scenes for years to help make this happen and deserve every ounce of praise and recognition that we can bestow upon them (thank you Stacey Abrams).
In less-ulcer-inducing election news, the CWBA took positions on three Colorado ballot measures, all of which had the desired outcomes.
Colorado voted to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, which prevents future cuts to residential property taxes and will (hopefully) help stabilize funding for schools and local governments. Colorado property tax law is a complicated beast with TABOR and local mill levies still in play.
And we voted no on Proposition 115, against enacting a prohibition on abortion after twenty-two weeks of pregnancy. Colorado is one of the few states that currently does not have any restrictions on abortion after a certain point in the pregnancy. And if you’re feeling like you’ve voted on this issue before, that’s because you did! This is the eighth time abortion restrictions have been on the Colorado ballot since 1984 and the fourth since 2008.
Finally, Colorado voted to enact Proposition 118, the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, which provides twelve weeks of paid leave. An individual can take leave for caring for their own serious health condition; caring for a new child during the first year after birth or adoption, or for foster care of a new child; caring for a family member with a serious health condition; when a family member is on active duty military service or called for active duty; and when the individual or the individual’s family member is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. But note, the first premiums will be paid beginning January 1, 2023, and benefits will not be available until January 1, 2024. Only a handful of other states currently have any sort of paid family or medical leave, and what is covered under those protections varies by state.
It was an impassioned election in a year of unprecedented hardships and challenges. While there is much work to still be done, it is worthwhile to take a small moment to celebrate the successes that were achieved. To read more about Colorado election results, see our report prepared by the CWBA's lobbyists at Abponte & Busam Public Affairs below.
Marty Whalen Brown is a Staff Adjudicator at the Office of Appeals in the Colorado Department of Human Services. She holds a J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School and clerked at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge under the Colorado Supreme Court after graduating.