Colorado Common Cause Positions on 2020 Ballot Initiatives

Photo by Jennifer Griffin on Unsplash

Note: I wrote these on behalf of Colorado Common Cause, where I am the current Board Chair. While we don’t always take positions on ballot measures, we do take positions on those that have potential to affect our areas of influence: Ethics & Accountability, Money & Influence, Redistricting & Gerrymandering, Voting & Elections, Media & Democracy, and Constitution, Courts, & Other Democracy issues. As a bipartisan organization, we do not take positions on candidates.

It is important to us that every Coloradan not only exercise their right to vote, but votes their full ballot, and does so fully informed.

Colorado voters have already begun receiving their mail ballots — and they will have some big decisions to make. Your vote is your voice in determining the future of our state. It’s important that you research and vote on all the candidates and initiatives on your ballot.

While Colorado Common Cause does not take positions on candidates who are running for office, please take time to learn about where your candidates stand on democracy issues.

As a democracy and government accountability advocacy organization, Colorado Common Cause generally does not support or oppose tax measures. We are making two exceptions for the November 2020 ballot. Colorado operates in a severely restrictive tax environment, and an adverse outcome on either of the proposed measures on this year’s ballot diminishes our state’s capacity to educate the next generation of citizens and threatens the already scarce resources required to ensure strong and fair democratic processes and participation, including such things as the cost of printing ballots or operating polling centers.

Amendment B
Colorado Common Cause Position: Support
Area of influence: Voting & Elections

What does it do? Repeals the Gallagher Amendment

How does this impact our Democracy? Repealing the Gallagher amendment, as this measure would, protects a vital source of funding for local schools, election infrastructure, fire districts, hospitals, libraries, and other community services against further erosion as residential property values continue to rise, thereby triggering lower assessments under the Gallagher regime. This system plainly disadvantages rural communities, communities of color, and others in Colorado who have not fully shared in our state’s recent growth. Keeping the Gallagher amendment in place means that many towns and cities across Colorado — especially those outside the Front Range — will face even greater property tax revenue shortfalls going forward, creating a crisis of underinvestment that will have a direct and negative impact on healthy governance and civic participation. Passing Amendment B is a step in the right direction and keeps an already difficult situation from getting worse.

Amendment 76
Colorado Common Cause Position: Oppose
Area of Influence: Voting & Elections

What does it do? Changes the language in the Colorado Constitution that references eligible voters from “every citizen” to “only a citizen”

How does this impact our Democracy? Although the change in language seems to be relatively minor, as you must be a US Citizen to register to vote in the state of Colorado, the effects of making this change are a threat to our democracy. Surprisingly, the US Constitution does not specifically require citizenship to vote. This is determined on a state-by-state basis, and the change of this language would also close the opportunity to expand voting to non-citizens in the future. It paves the way for prohibitively restrictive voter registration and voter ID laws (such as requiring a birth certificate in order to vote), which are most likely to be barriers to voting for low income people and people of color. In addition, the language can disproportionately disenfranchise immigrant voters who have citizenship status. In 2019, Colorado passed a law that would allow 17 year olds who will be 18 at the time of the General Election to cast a ballot in primary elections. This language would nullify that law. While this language is intended to focus on governmental elections, it effectively prohibits non-citizens from voting in elections that they would otherwise be permitted to vote in, such as HOA elections.

Proposition 113
Colorado Common Cause Position: Support
Area of Influence: Voting & Elections

What does it do? Signs Colorado on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

How does this impact our Democracy? Twice in recent history, the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral College. In 2019, the Colorado legislature passed a bill, which was approved by voters, to sign Colorado onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Compact is an agreement that awards all of a state’s Electoral votes to the Presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Our current system of electing the president is broken because it makes some people’s vote count more than others, in particular, it disproportionately dilutes the votes of people of color. Every voter deserves to be treated equally, no matter where they live. The concept of “one person, one vote” should apply to all eligible voters equally. The National Popular Vote honors the will of the people without dismantling the electorate as required by the Constitution. The Compact only goes into effect when enacted by states with a total of 270 electoral votes, which is the number of electorate votes needed for a candidate to win the office. This initiative allows voters to decide if we should keep this law on the books and sign Colorado onto the Compact.

Proposition 116
Colorado Common Cause Position: Oppose
Area of influence: Voting & Elections

What does it do? Reduces the state income tax rate

How does this impact our Democracy? This proposition comes in the wake of significant across-the-board state budget cuts and as the governor calls for additional reductions in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered the cuts, is not yet beyond us. Colorado Common Cause fears that taking existing revenue off the books as essential government services are under historic strain will keep our kids and vulnerable communities in a tenuous situation for years to come. This loss of revenue will cast uncertainty over funding for public schools, county clerk offices, polling locations, and other civic and election infrastructure.

Denver Internet Initiative
Colorado Common Cause Position: Support
Area of Influence: Media & Democracy

What does it do? Allows the City of Denver to opt out of Senate Bill 05–152 and develop its own broadband capability

How does this impact our Democracy? Particularly as COVID-19 has made broadband access even more critical for students and people working from home, Internet access has become a basic necessary utility like water or power. While this initiative does not create municipal broadband, it is the first (and required) step in doing so. Access to the internet is increasingly necessary for participation in civic life. Residents need the internet in order to access work, school, news, and voting information. It’s how we fill out our census and how we get information about what’s on the ballot. This is the first step in creating equitable internet infrastructure in Denver.

For more information about the state-wide ballot initiatives we recommend the following nonpartisan resources:

2020 Blue Book

Count Me In! Colorado

2020 Colorado Ballot Guide from the Bell Policy Center

tales of a girl trying to make sense of it all.

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