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Elections

Election FAQ#

To vote in a City election you must be a resident of the state of Colorado for at least 22 days immediately prior to the election.  To vote on City of Fort Collins questions, you must also reside within the Fort Collins city limits.

Many people believe they should be allowed to vote in City elections because they own property or a business in Fort Collins. Others believe that a Fort Collins mailing address or the fact that they pay City sales tax while shopping in Fort Collins should qualify them. While we understand your desire to participate in City elections, the law simply does not permit it.

District Councilmembers are nominated and elected by the voters in their District. The election of District Councilmembers alternates so that voters from Districts 1, 3, and 5 elect Councilmembers in one election, and voters from Districts 2, 4 and 6 elect Councilmembers in the next election. All Districts vote on candidates for the office of Mayor at every election (Elections are held November of odd-numbered years).

Article VIII, Section 2 of the City Charter provides that all municipal elections shall be nonpartisan. Candidates are not required to provide information about their party affiliation, nor does the City specifically know the party affiliation of each candidate.

View candidates who have filed for the upcoming election.

The City Clerk's Office can provide information about who the candidates are and what the issues are, but cannot provide information about a candidate's platform or the pros and cons of a particular issue. We will provide contact information for candidates, candidate committees, and issue committees upon request. 

View Candidate Filings

In Colorado ballots are mailed to registered voters and may be returned by mail or at a variety of drop-off locations and vote centers. Learn more at the Larimer County Clerk & Recorder.

View map of Larimer County ballot drop-off locations and vote centers.

Mail Ballot Process

Yes. It is legal for bars, restaurants, and liquor stores to sell alcohol beverages on election day. The state law prohibiting alcohol sales on election day was repealed in 1990.

Yes.  State statute requires that the elector pay postage.  When the City conducted its regular election in April of odd-numbered years, the City Code provided for the City to pay return postage on voted ballots.  But in an election coordinated with the County in November, we are required to follow state statute, which requires the elector to pay postage.

State statute provides that an elector may deliver the ballot to any person of their own choice. However, you should take into consideration how well you know the person you are giving your ballot to and whether or not you trust them to perform that service.  Under state statute, no person may receive more than 10 mail ballots in any election for mailing or delivery.

Candidate and Campaign FAQ#

Campaign Finance Reports [City Code Article V, Section 7-136]#

There are a couple of ways that it could be reported.  First, look at how your original invoice from the vendor describes the credit, and second, how the credit came to you.  Was this only given to you because of your campaign or was this open to anyone.  You should report it in a way that most closely ties to the description in the invoice and whether this was targeted to you or not.  Here are some options:

  • Report the expenditure as the original amount less the $50 credit.  For example:  $300 charge minus $50 credit = $250 net charge.
  • Report the credit as an in kind contribution as it could be considered a thing of value.
  • Report the full amount of the invoice, and then on the next line, record a negative expense representing the amount of the credit, with a description of what occurred. 

Ultimately, you must decide how to report it and keep documentation for yourself on why you did what you did should there be a complaint filed.

Using a form other than the one provided by the City and not filling out the campaign finance reports completely are the most common reasons for rejection.   Creating new forms or altering the official City campaign finance report is prohibited by City Code Section 7-136(e).

Additionally, Section 7-136(e) of City Code requires that the forms must be filled out completely.  If the form provided by the Clerk is not used (unaltered), or if the form is not filled out completely, the report will be rejected.

Failure to timely file a complete financial report may be a Code violation subject to penalties. A complete and accepted form needs to be filed by the deadlines listed.  An earlier submittal of a report, if rejected, will not count towards meeting the filing deadline.

No, but the Committee needs to keep them for one year after the final disclosure date for the Committee (or longer if a complaint has been filed).

Contributions - General [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Sections 7-132 and 7-135]#

This is covered by 7-138(e), which provides that the carryover funds do not count against any contribution limit attributable to any past contributor in a prior election.  The contributions would not count against the contribution limits for the new campaign.

Contributions after election day to the existing committee would be considered “unexpended campaign contributions” under 7-138, which means there would be limits on how the committee could use them.  However, if the candidate registers a committee for the next election, then those funds could be carried over and then spent as the committee sees fit in support of the next election.  Those carried over funds are then subject to contribution limits and reporting requirements.

The Code defines “unexpended campaign contributions” as the balance of funds on hand with a committee “following an election.”  On the day after election day, the funds on hand with the committee are considered unexpended and must be held or spent for specific purposes per Section 7-138.  This would include new contributions to the same committee.

City Code states that in no event should contributions be used for personal purposes not reasonably related to supporting the election/retention of the candidate.  If this does occur, the campaign must proactively address this on their disclosure and ensure that the amount is repaid and that it does not occur again.

Councilmembers and the Mayor are not considered City employees for most purposes and are not covered by the provisions of City personnel policies.  Likewise, the Mayor and Councilmembers are not employees for purposes of Charter Article VIII, Section 8, which contains the prohibitions on employees contribution to Council candidates.  Therefore, they are allowed to make personal contributions to a candidate.

The value of items (like a web site or campaign signs) donated from a previous committee (same candidate) to a new committee, must be reported on current committee reports as an in-kind contribution.  The report should list and include any items of value that have been transferred to the new candidate committee.  Remaining funds held by the previous committee that are rolled over to the new committee should be reported as a monetary contribution. 

Yes, for District candidates.  The limit is $100 for Mayoral candidates.

For example, if my son creates a graphic do I need to report that as an “in kind” contribution?

No. The City Code (Section 7-132) excludes this from the definition of “contribution”:

  • Services provided without compensation by a natural person volunteering their personal time on behalf of a candidate, candidate committee, political committee, issue committee or small-scale issue committee.

Yes.  Section 7-135(a)(1) of the Code states that “No person may make contributions and/or contributions in kind totaling more than one hundred dollars ($100.) to the candidate committee of any candidate for the office of Mayor. No person may make contributions and/or contributions in kind totaling more than seventy-five dollars ($75.) to the candidate committee of any candidate for the office of Councilmember. These limitations shall apply to all contributions or contributions in kind, whether made directly to a candidate committee or indirectly via earmarked gifts passed through an intermediary …. (emphasis added).”  There are some exceptions to the stated limit, including an exclusion for a candidate’s own in-kind contributions.

No. See response above about volunteered services as contributions.

No.  Contributions have to come from a U.S. citizen.  [Code Section 7-135(e)]

The City Code does not require that contributions be from adults – it defines “person” to mean any individual, or entity, organization or group of persons.

If a payment is intended to come from multiple persons, it will be important to obtain written confirmation from the contributor(s) that the contribution was intended to be a joint contribution and have both sign it.  Documentation is important, even if the only documentation you can generate is your own notes related to the situation.

The Charter, under Article VIII, Section 8, says "no political party....may contribute or expend any money or other valuable thing, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of any candidate."

The Charter under Article VIII, Section 8, says "no political party....may contribute or expend any money or other valuable thing, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of any candidate."  It is likely the use of office space would constitute a thing of value, but this may require a case-by-case evaluation.

Contributions - Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Section 7-135(b)]#

No.

These are types of business entities.  There are others as well.  Candidates are responsible for obtaining reliable information about the business entity type in connection with any contributions in order to ensure compliance with the requirements that apply to LLCs. The Colorado Secretary of State has provided information about common legal structures for businesses here.

Contributions - Political Parties [City Charter, Article VIII, Section 8; and City Code Chapter 7, Article V, Section 7-135]#

The City Charter prohibits contributions from political parties; the Charter and Code do not address transacting business with political parties.  If a candidate procures goods or services from a political party, the amount paid must be based on fair market value of the goods or services.  Otherwise, the difference would be considered a contribution and would be prohibited. A political party providing assistance to a candidate violates the Charter unless there is full payment for the work done. 

No.  The Charter prohibits political parties from contributing or expending money or any other valuable thing, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of a candidate.

Council Compensation [City Charter, Article II, Section 3]#

Council compensation is listed on the Council’s web page.

Council Home Page

Council Candidates#

All candidates who have turned in a Candidate Affidavit have been placed on the City’s election website as an unofficial candidate.  Once the Clerk’s Office receives a nomination petition that includes 25 valid signatures and is deemed sufficient, the “unofficial” designation will be removed and the candidate becomes official.

If you decide you no longer wish to be a candidate before you file a nomination petition, there is no requirement to file any paperwork.  This is because you are considered an “unofficial” candidate until you submit a valid nomination petition.  However, an email to elections@fcgov.com expressing your decision and asking us to remove your information from our website is desirable.

If you make this decision after you have accepted nomination, then you need to email elections@fcgov.com to obtain a Request to Withdraw from Nomination form.

Elected Position#

This means elected to a public office like a County Commissioner, State representative or similar office.

Election Operations#

All questions relating to the conduct of the election, such as the availability of facility tours, watchers as the polls or in ballot processing, or live video of ballot processing, should be directed to the Larimer County Elections Office at 970.498.7820.

Larimer County Elections

State statute requires the elector to provide postage.   Anecdotally, providing postage may be perceived as “buying” a vote.

State statute provides an elector may deliver the ballot to any person of the elector’s own choice, however no person, other than a duly authorized agent of the County Clerk or Designated Election Official, may receive more than 10 mail ballots in any election for mailing or delivery.

Nomination Petition [City Charter, Article VIII, Sections 3 and 4]#

Yes, as long as the amended petition is received by the deadline.  For 2023, the deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 1.  It is common for prospective candidates to get more than 25 signatures as part of petition efforts to help ensure the petition is sufficient, since some of the signatures may be found to be ineligible to be counted.  Forty lines are provided on the petition form.

Yes.  Article VIII, Section 3 of the Charter, in relevant part, states:

Section 3. - Nomination; withdrawal from nomination.

Any person who is qualified at the time of nomination for the office to be filled may be nominated for the elective office by petition. A nominating petition for the office of Mayor shall be signed by not less than twenty-five (25) registered electors. A nominating petition for District Council office shall be signed by not less than twenty-five (25) registered electors residing in that District. A registered elector may sign one (1) petition for each office for which the elector is entitled to vote at the election. If an elector should sign more petitions than entitled, said elector's signature shall be void as to all petitions which the elector signed.

Yes.

Yes.  They cannot share a petition; one circulator only per petition.

"Paid for By" Statements [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Section 7-140]#

No.  The name of the candidate or committee should be used.

Anything that is practical should include a paid-for-by statement.  This will help reduce the risk of being found out of compliance with the Code.  If you are having bookmarks printed, this should be added if space can be made for it. 

In general, if there is a cost associated with producing or sending a text message, it is subject to the disclosure by a candidate or committee.  You will need to evaluate the texts you are sending based on the requirements in the Code, provided and highlighted below:

Sec. 7-140. - Responsibility for communications.

(a)  Required Statements.

(1)  Whenever a candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee or registered small-scale issue committee makes an expenditure for the purpose of financing communications expressly advocating a particular result in an election, or solicits any contribution or contribution in-kind through any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, direct mailing or any other type of general public political advertising, such communication if paid for or authorized by a candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee, registered small-scale issue committee, or any agent for the same, shall clearly state that the communication is paid for by that candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee or registered small-scale issue committee.

(2)  Whenever any person makes an independent expenditure in excess of the reporting threshold in § 7-139 for the purpose of financing communications expressly advocating for a particular result in an election, such communication shall clearly state that the communication is paid for by that person.

(b)  In regard to the different forms of communication set forth in subsection (a) of this Section 7-140, "communication" shall include, but shall not be limited to:

(1)  Websites or social media of a candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee or registered small-scale issue committee available to the general public;

(2)  Websites or social media of a person if and to the extent they are financed by independent expenditures in excess of the reporting threshold in § 7-139 and are available to the general public; and

(3)  Advertisements placed for a fee on another person's website or social media.

(c)  The statement required by this Section 7-140 must be clear and conspicuous in the communication. The statement required herein shall not apply to communications where including the statement would be impractical, such as:

(1)  Bumper stickers, pins, buttons, pens and similar small items upon which the disclaimer cannot be conveniently printed;

(2)  Skywriting, water towers, wearing apparel, or other means of displaying an advertisement of such a nature that the inclusion of a disclaimer would be impracticable; or

(3)  Checks, receipts, and similar items of minimal value that are used for purely administrative purposes and do not contain a political message.

(d)  Nothing herein shall be deemed to alleviate any person from complying with federal campaign finance law, as applicable.

Political Action Committees (PACs)#

A political committee is not allowed to make a contribution to a candidate committee.  However, as defined in the City Code, a political committee is:

  • Two or more persons who are elected, appointed or chosen, or have associated themselves, and that take steps in furtherance of an intent to accept contributions, contributions in kind, or make expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidates (for Fort Collins office); or
  • Any person that take steps in furtherance of an intent to accept contributions or contributions in kind for the purpose of supporting or opposing one or more candidates; or 
  • Any person or associated persons upon making independent expenditures of $2,500 or more for the purpose of supporting or opposing one or more candidates.

A PAC would likely fall under the second bullet above, and would have to register with the City Clerk as a political committee and follow all of the requirements of a political committee as set out in the City Code, if it intends to make expenditures to support or oppose candidates.  That being said, a PAC cannot make a contribution to a candidate committee.

Door-to-Door Activities#

Yes.  To summarize:

Political solicitation is prohibited when a private premises has a "No Solicitation" or "No Trespassing" sign posted.  Additionally, it is unlawful to cause literature to be left at the private property, or to affix those documents onto the private property, without the owner's permission.

For more information here are some sections of the City Code that apply:

Temporary Signs (aka Yard Signs) [City Code, Chapter 17, Section 17-42 and Land Use Code Section 3.8.7.3]#

The City of Fort Collins regulates  signs that are temporary in nature, like election signs, through its rules for temporary signs in the Land Use Code. These regulations dictate the allowed location, type, materials, and display duration of temporary signs in Fort Collins.

More Campaign Sign Information

Temporary signs are generally not permitted in the public right-of-way. Signs improperly located in the public right-of-way will be removed by city staff and stored for at least 30 days at 281 North College Ave. If you have questions about whether a location is in the public right-of-way, please contact the Engineering Department at (970) 221-6605 or engineering@fcgov.com.

Temporary signs also cannot be placed in the sightlines of traffic. If you have questions about whether a location is blocking sightlines, please contact Neighborhood Services by phone at (970) 224-6046 or by email at neighborhoodservices@fcgov.com.

Temporary signs can be located on private property with the permission of the property owner. The number of signs allowed on a property depends on the use of that property, its zoning district, and the type of sign being displayed. For example, single-family homes and duplexes can display an unlimited amount of temporary yard signs, while other building types are more restricted. Regardless of the number of yard signs, each must be at least 2 ft. from all property lines and other signs. If you have questions about how many signs can be located on a specific property, please contact Neighborhood Services by phone at (970) 224-6046 or by email at neighborhoodservices@fcgov.com.

The City regulates how long temporary signs can be displayed based on the type of materials used in their construction. There is a maximum display duration based on the material, which refers to how long signs of a given type and material can be displayed per calendar year. There is also a maximum display duration per property, which refers to how long a property can display any temporary signs of each sign type per calendar year. The following table gives this information for yard, site, and swing signs:

Sign Type Paper, card stock, foam core board, or cardboard Laminated paper, cardstock, plastic bags Cloth, canvas, nylon, polyester, burlap, or flexible vinyl Inflexible vinyl, hard plastic, or corrugated plastic Wood or metal Maximum Display Duration per Property
Yard Sign Not allowed 45 days Not allowed 60 days 180 days 180 days
Window Sign 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days per sign

The maximum size of temporary signs depends on their type and location. A typical temporary yard sign located on a single-family family lot can have a maximum area of 6 sq. ft. and a maximum height of 4 ft. If you have questions about other types of signs or other locations, please contact Neighborhood Services by phone at (970) 224-6046 or by email at neighborhoodservices@fcgov.com.

The City removes signs from the public right-of-way proactively and upon receiving a complaint. If located outside a private business or residence, staff will attempt to notify the business manager or owner about acceptable placement of signs and remedy the issue. Otherwise, staff will remove the signs, attempt to contact the owner if identifiable, and store them for at least 30 days at 281 North College Ave.

The City will also respond to complaints about sign violations on private property. Staff will investigate the complaint to determine if a violation has occurred. If a violation is identified, staff will proceed with the standard code compliance process to remedy the issue.

Signs removed from the right-of-way by City staff are stored for a minimum of 30 days at 281 North College Ave. You or your registered representative can retrieve your signs from this location. Please bring identification and ask for Neighborhood Services at the front desk. The building hours are 9-12am and 1-5pm Monday through Friday.

Please contact the Engineering Department at (970) 221-6605 or engineering@fcgov.com.

Please contact Neighborhood Services by phone at (970) 224-6046 or by email at neighborhoodservices@fcgov.com.

Please contact Neighborhood Services by phone at (970) 224-6046 or by email at neighborhoodservices@fcgov.com.

Other common communications are regulated by the standards in the Municipal Code, Chapter 17, Article III. Section 17-42:

  • Fliers
  • Notices
  • Posters

The Code prohibits fastening or affixing fliers or other notices to private property, including motor vehicles and other personal property, without the permission of the owner or occupants of such property.  Permission to fasten or affix fliers to the front door of a private residence is implied if there is an improved walkway connecting the residence directly to a public right-of-way, unless:

  • Access to the walkway is restricted by a fence, gate or other permanent structure;
  • A “No Trespassing” or “No Solicitation” sign or a sign prohibiting posting is posted at or near the entrance to the residence; or
  • The owner or occupant of a particular residence has notified the person/entity intending to fasten or affix the fliers that such materials may not be posted.

Banners are allowed in most zone districts.  Exceptions include:

  • Rural Lands District (R-U-L)
  • Residential Foothills District (R-F)
  • Low Density Residential District (R-L)
  • Neighborhood Conservation, Low Density District (N-C-L)
  • Public Open Lands District (P-O-L)
  • River Conservation District (R-C)

More information about these zone districts can be found in Land Use Code Article 4. 

If a banner is placed on an approved nonresidential building in compliance with all other standards it is allowed in these zone districts. These zone districts primarily consist of open space and detached single family housing. 

Vehicle mounted signs are allowed in all zone districts, similar to delivery trucks that have a message on them. Vehicle mounted signs must:

  • Be on an operational vehicle with current registration and tags;
  • Ensure the display does not interfere with the immediate operation of the motor vehicle;
  • Not cover windows or be held in place by an open hood, trunk, or door; and
  • Be placed on a vehicle that is legally parked in a vehicle use area depicted on an approved site plan.

Removing legally posted yard signs may subject the perpetrator to prosecution for trespass, theft or other criminal offense.

Signs posted on a property without permission should be removed by, or at the direction of, the property owner.

Signs in the public right-of-way should be reported to the Inspection Request Line (970.416.2200) so City staff can remove them and follow the procedure in the City Code to follow up with the apparent owner(s) and potentially dispose of the signs.

Violations [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Division 2]#

In general, the Charter does not contain specific provisions relating to campaigns. 

However, violation of the Charter constitutes a criminal misdemeanor and may be enforced in the same manner as other misdemeanors.  In addition, Article VIII, Section 9 of the Charter states that a person who violates at a city election any state law, provision of this Charter or ordinance of the city shall, upon conviction thereof, be disqualified from holding any city position or employment for two (2) years, or any elective city office for four (4) years.

A Charter violation can occur whenever the mandatory provisions of the City Charter are violated.

Under Article VIII, Section 9 of the City Charter, a person who is convicted of a violation of law at a city election shall be disqualified from holding a City position of employment for 2 years and elective City office for 4 years.

Seeking Election in the Future#

You can reregister your committee for the next appropriate election cycle. Doing so is considered to be a public announcement of your intent to run for office, which triggers the need to file a Candidate Affidavit within 10 days of a public announcement. It also means that your committee must have completed all activity for the prior election, since any subsequent activity will be treated as activity for the future election.

Most candidates take steps to make sure that all prior election expenses have been covered and reported before converting or terminating a committee.  If you have remaining unspent contributions, you have two options:

  1. Dispose of the funds pursuant to Section 7-138 of the City Code. If the funds are used in this way and the final balance of funds on hand is $0, then you should file a termination report.
  2. Carryover the remaining balance to a future election pursuant to Section 7-138(e). To facilitate this, the last expenditure of the committee for the prior election should reflect a carryover of funds to the committee for a future election.  The first contribution line of first report in the new election cycle should reflect the carryover of funds from the prior election.  This will result in the final balance of funds on hand at the end of the election being $0, and a termination report would be in order.

Once you reregister your committee for a future election, all contributions and expenditures should be for that future election.

No, they do not.  Section 7-138(e) of the City Code states that such carryover fund will not count against any contribution limit attributable to any past contributor in a prior election campaign.

As soon as you reregister your committee you must keep track of your contributions and expenditures.  However, your first report will not be due until November 1 following reregistration of your committee, every November 1 thereafter until you reach the future election cycle.  The first election cycle report will be due 35 days prior to the future election date.

If your committee has not engaged in any election activities or reported any contributions or expenditures, you may terminate the committee by filing an amended committee registration indicating that the nature of the amendment is termination of the committee and verifying that no contributions have been received or expenditures made since registration occurred.  Note that this only works if you begin the committee with zero funds on hand (no carryover from a prior election).

If your committee has engaged in election activities or began with carryover funds from a prior election, then you can dispose of any unexpended funds held by the committee pursuant to Section 7-138 of the Code and file a termination report.  An email affirmatively stating that you will not be running in the future election is desirable.

If you decide to withdraw after your nomination petition has been filed, a form for withdrawal from the election is available.