The Colorados love their voting metrics.
Since the state’s early years, Colorado voters have had a say in matters of politics and spending, able to vote for or against the voting measures.
During the first decades, voters could only influence the measures referred, which are sent to the polls by the General Assembly. But at the beginning of the last century, they had the chance to come up with their own questions.
A couple of passionate Colorado Direct Legislation League reformers spent years lobbying for the initiative process, and in 1910 Governor John Shafroth called a special session of the legislature to put the proposals on the ballot. , according to an article published by the Initiative & Referendum Institute and summarized on the Ballotpedia site.
In November, voters approved the creation of the initiative process – as well as the ability of residents to remove elected officials and prevent laws from coming into force – with 76 percent of the vote.
When the new procedure took effect with the 1912 election, the Coloradians went on a rampage, collecting enough signatures to place 20 questions on the ballot – then approved eight.
Since then, Colorado has ranked among the states that use the form of direct democracy to resolve thorny issues, deal with administrative matters, and tackle issues the legislature will not address.
It’s mostly a Western thing, according to data compiled by Ballotpedia.
Oregon leads the pack with the most number of proposed statewide initiatives over the years, followed by California and then Colorado. North Dakota and Arizona round out the top five.
Of the 183 initiatives proposed since Colorado began using the method, 36% have gained approval – roughly the same percentage as the Oregon and California initiatives, although below 45% of voters in North Dakota and 42% in Arizona.
As Coloradians head to the polls ahead of the 2021 election – in most cases that means opening the mailed ballot, clearing a space on the kitchen table to fill it in, and then putting it through the mail. post or deliver it to a drop box – it seemed like a good time to take a look at some of the most significant voting measures approved by voters over the decades.
Most of the measures listed below have been adopted over the past 50 years, including the turbulent decade of the 1990s, the national height of citizens’ initiatives.
Not on the list are nearly all of the metrics that established or refined the rules state and local governments use to operate in Colorado, which make up the bulk of statewide voting matters.
From an amendment establishing the seat of state government in Denver to one limiting ordinary sessions of the General Assembly to 120 days, voters have participated in the functioning of the state since its inception.
For example, before voters approved Referendum 1 in 1968, the governor and lieutenant governor of Colorado were elected separately and could be from different parties, making travel out of state tense. when a governor had to worry that his No.2 might veto favorable legislation. or overturn the policies of the administration.
It was not until 1966 that voters capped the number of state senators at 35 and the number of state representatives at 65 in Proposition 4, which simultaneously established procedures to redistribute legislative constituencies every 10 years using new census data.
In 1956, voters agreed to increase the terms of state leaders from two to four years – including the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, and attorney general. , as well as an additional office which was previously elected. at the state level, the auditor. (This office was converted to an administrative tenancy with a 1964 amendment.)
Federal constitutional amendments have also had their day at the polls. State voters enacted a “dry” ban law in 1918 with 63% of the vote, then reversed in 1932, repealing the ban, although this vote garnered only 56% support .
In 1912, the first year the Coloradians could initiate voting measures – before that, they had relied on the General Assembly to send questions to the ballot – voters approved eight initiatives. This harvest included proposals establishing an eight-hour work day for women and underground miners (in two separate proposals), allowing towns and villages to decide how to operate under the “home rule”, strengthening the capacity of workers. residents to remind elected national and local authorities, and established juvenile courts in cities and counties with more than 100,000 inhabitants.
Since the 1880s, when several housekeeping measures setting the rules of state government were each passed with 87 percent of the vote, few voting measures have been approved by overwhelming margins.
In 2018, Proposition 111, a limit on payday loans, was approved with 77% of the vote – the widest margin of the decade. In the 2006 election, the E referendum, granting disabled veterans land tax relief, was approved with 79% of the vote. Referendum 2 of 1982, which denies release on bail for certain offenses punishable by the death penalty in certain circumstances, was adopted with 82% of the vote.
But it wasn’t since 1918 that Colorado voters approved the voting measures with more than 4: 1 margins. That year, voters granted Referendum 2, which requires the printing of proposed voting measures in the form of public notices, 88% of the vote, while Initiative 3, which relieves blind adults, was adopted with 93% of the votes.
Here’s a look at 10 Colorado voting metrics that have marked the state – and, in some cases, the world at large.
1892: Women’s suffrage – Colorado became the first state in the country to grant women the right to vote in a statewide vote, with the all-male electorate approving the targeted constitutional amendment with 55 percent of the vote. The Wyoming territorial legislature had taken the same step 23 years earlier, but Colorado is unique in being the first government in the world to expand women’s suffrage by popular vote. Two years later, Colorado voters of both sexes elected three women to the General Assembly.
1972: rejection of the Winter Olympics – Technically, Proposition 8 did not prohibit Colorado from hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics, but the constitutional amendment proposed by a young Denver state lawmaker named Dick Lamm prevented the state from issuing bonds and otherwise fund the infrastructure needed to host the Olympics. It was the first time that a place awarded with the Olympic Games refused the games. The campaign helped propel Lamm, who died in July, into the governor’s mansion for three terms.
1972: The law of the sun – Colorado’s landmark Open Government Law required that the business of state and local governments be conducted in public and established the presumption that public records are accessible to the public. He also demanded that officials disclose their private interests and created a registration system for lobbyists.
1974: The Poundstone Amendment – Initiated by Republican lobbyist Freda Poundstone, who went on to be mayor of Greenwood Village, the amendment circled a ravenous Denver, which was in the process of annexing surrounding suburbs, with implications for subway governance that linger for decades longer. late.
1992: amendment 2 – The measure barred local governments from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect gay, lesbian or bisexual residents, sparking a furious backlash that spawned boycotts and called Colorado a “state of hate.” The amendment was ultimately overturned by the United States Supreme Court in a landmark decision.
1992: Taxpayer Bill of Rights – After decades of attempts to push through tax restraint measures similar to California’s Proposition 13, passed in 1978 to limit property taxes, Colorado’s Douglas Bruce succeeded in pushing through the complex amendment line known as by TABOR. The measure requires voter approval for tax increases, but also places a myriad of other hamstrings on state and local governments. For the Conservatives, this is the one thing that keeps Colorado sane, when it is the amendment most Liberals want to overturn.
1994: The GAVEL amendment – Short for “give every lawmaker a vote,” the amendment establishes rules that essentially accomplish this, distinguishing Colorado from many states where minority lawmakers are accustomed to having their proposals ignored. The measure requires that every bill be heard and prohibits legislative leaders from exercising “pocket veto”.
1996: Term limits – The national movement first came to fruition in Colorado with a measure that also placed term limits on members of Congress, though that was later overturned by a court.
2005: Referendum C – The measure that lifted TABOR restrictions for five years may be the last time Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences and came together to put a question to the ballot, albeit a complementary measure, the referendum D, which covered transport spending, failed by a narrow margin.
2012: Legalization of recreational marijuana – With the passage of Amendment 64, Colorado became one of the first states in the country to legalize pot, with Washington state passing a similar measure the same night. Although medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, the move has led to the creation of a regulated retail market, pot tourism, and ultimately widespread adoption across the country.