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Category: Colorado (page 1 of 2)

The Dollars Behind Direct Democracy

By: Emily Hessler

On November 8, Colorado voters will decide whether to approve a hotly contested measure––Initiative 71––that would make it more difficult to get initiatives on the state’s ballot and to pass proposed constitutional amendments. The so-called “raise the bar” amendment would require that, in order for a constitutional initiative to make it onto the ballot, two percent of voters in each of Colorado’s thirty-five state senate districts sign the supporting petition. Initiative 71 would also require that constitutional initiatives receive fifty-five percent voter approval to pass.

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Taking the Initiative: Coloradans Set to Vote on Proposal to Limit Ballot Initiatives and Constitutional Amendments

By: Emily Hessler

Coloradans looking to limit the number of citizen initiatives on the state’s ballots are using an unlikely tool to achieve their goal: the citizen initiative. Supporters argue that a proposed measure on November’s ballot––Initiative 71––would “raise the bar” by making it more difficult to get citizen initiatives on Colorado’s ballots and by increasing the percentage of votes required to amend the state’s constitution.

Under Article V of the Colorado Constitution, the ballot initiative is a power “the people reserve to themselves.” Pursuant to this constitutional provision, Colorado citizens can petition to include proposals on general election ballots for new legislation––statutory initiatives––or for constitutional amendments––constitutional initiatives. Twenty-four states allow initiatives, but only sixteen permit that constitutional initiatives go directly on the ballot without first being presented to the legislature.

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Election Law Program Pilots Three Online Platforms of State Election Codes in Colorado, Florida and Virginia

Wondering what the Virginia election code has to say about campaign volunteers and others at the polls? Want context on statutes that govern when voter registration ends in Florida? Curious about how Colorado election statutes impact voter registration lists?

In advance of next month’s election, the Election Law Program, a joint project of William & Mary Law School and the National Center for State Courts, is piloting three online platforms of state election codes in Colorado, Florida and Virginia. Teams of election experts have annotated their state’s election code to give context for how the law operates in these states. In addition, case law, regulations, advisory opinions, and administrative guidance are linked to relevant statutes to provide a full picture of how election codes in Colorado, Florida, and Virginia function.

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Bloated Voter Registration Rolls in Colorado Counties Could Support Implementation of Stricter Voting Requirements

By: Eric Speer

In late August 2015, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving election integrity, found that 10 counties in Colorado have over-inflated voter rolls. Pitkin, Mineral, Hinsdale, San Juan, Ouray, Summit, Dolores, San Miguel, Cheyenne and Boulder Counties were found to have more voters registered than people eligible to vote. This over inflation violates the National Voter Registration Act, which requires “states to keep voter registration lists accurate and current, such as identifying persons who have become ineligible due to having died or moved outside the jurisdiction.”

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Ballot Initiatives for Marijuana Legalization Track Public Opinion

By Hannah Whiteker

Fans of direct democracy should be excited about the increased use of state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana use. Direct democracy  allows citizens to enact and change laws, instead of electing representatives to make important decisions for them. One of the ways that the United States utilizes direct democracy is through state ballot initiatives. If a group of voters wants to get an initiative on the ballot to pass a law in their state (there is no initiative process for federal elections), the group must first get enough voters to sign a petition supporting the initiative. The number of signatures required varies by state. If the group satisfies the signature requirement, the initiative is put on the ballot for the next statewide election to be voted on by the people.

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Colorado School Board Recall Election Raises Questions about Campaign Finance Disclosures and the Role of Outside Money

By: Eric Speer

A county school board recall election in Colorado has brought focus once again to the influence of outside “dark money” on local political races. And campaign finance observers say that much of it will never be traced back to its source because of a confluence between IRS reporting regulations and a 2002 amendment to the Colorado constitution.

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Colorado Recall Election Highlights Voter Suppression

Last month, two state senators lost their positions in hotly contested recall elections. As well as bringing further attention to the ongoing national gun debate, it these elections also highlighted claims of voter suppression. A major concern came from District Judge Robert McGahey’s ruling allowing two Colorado Libertarians on the recall ballot. The effect of this ruling in essence meant that Colorado voters could no longer use mail-ballots to a cast a vote in this election, despite the fact that the General Assembly passed House Bill 13-1303 in early August. Continue reading

Panning for Gold: Is Colorado’s New Election Law All Grit?

by Forrest Reilly, Contributor

Coloradoans like voting. Colorado had the third highest voter turnout in the country during last year’s election, with seventy-one percent of its voting-eligible population casting ballots. Republicans and Democrats alike praised the smooth, efficient election process. Nonetheless, in the wake of the election the Colorado legislature passed a bill designed to further streamline and modernize Colorado’s elections. In broad strokes, the new law allows voters to register in person until election day, all ballots are delivered to voters through the mail, and voters who skip a general election will no longer face additional obstacles to voting – such voters were previously termed “Inactive Failed to Vote” (IFTV), but that designation is now defunct.  IFTV voters in previous years had to specially request that they receive their mail ballot or they would not receive one; the courts effectively suspended this provision last year when a judge threw out the Colorado Secretary of State’s suit filed against Pueblo County Clerks to enjoin them from sending unsolicited ballots to IFTV voters. Continue reading

Investigations into Colorado Secretary of State’s Use of State Funds Highlights Broader Concern about Partisan Election Administration Officials

by Caitlin Cater

In an era of attenuated public confidence in the electoral process, it’s not reassuring when a state’s chief election official becomes the subject of criminal and ethics investigations on the eve of a major election. Alas, that is what happened in Colorado this year, when, on November 5, both the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission announced that they are independently looking into whether Secretary of State Scott Gessler “violated the law by using state funds to attend a partisan event.”

This issue first came to light in October, when Colorado Ethics Watch, a left-leaning nonprofit watchdog organization, filed a request for investigation with the Denver District Attorney and the Denver Police Department, alleging that Gessler misused public funds when he submitted reimbursement forms for expenses incurred while attending the Republican National Convention and a Republican-sponsored election law training in August. Ethics Watch contends that “the Secretary’s Florida trip was manifestly personal and political, in which he participated only in partisan events, not in pursuit of state business.” Ethics Watch characterizes the group that sponsored the election law training, the Republican National Lawyers Association, as “a private organization of lawyers dedicated, among other things, to ‘advancing Republican ideals.’” Gessler was not a delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention. Continue reading

The Battleground 2012: Can Colorado Keep a (Ballot) Secret? After Citizen Center v. Gessler, It’s Not Required To Do So

by Caitlin Cater

Barcodes are a ubiquitous feature of modern life. They appear on everything from retail products and advertisements to patient forms at the doctor’s office. But perhaps one place a person might not expect to find a barcode is on an election ballot—especially when that barcode can be used to link an individual ballot with the voter who cast it. The notion seems at odds with our venerated tradition of the “secret” ballot. Indeed, that is what the plaintiffs argued in Citizen Center v. Gessler, a recent case before the United States District Court in Colorado.

On February 13, Citizen Center, a nonpartisan group of Colorado voters, filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of election policies and procedures in six Colorado counties. Specifically, Citizen Center alleged that the defendant counties’ election ballots each contain a unique identifying mark that allows a voted ballot to be traced to its specific voter. Citizen Center further alleged that use of these ballots unconstitutionally infringes upon citizens’ fundamental right to vote, as well as their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.   Continue reading

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