Colorado voters face the prospect of another lengthy ballot in November, one crowded with measures that propose everything from a single-payer health care system to a higher minimum wage to the legality of assisted death for patients with terminal illness.
That’s not to mention other measures that still could get on the ballot that would require setbacks for oil and natural gas development, impose higher cigarette taxes and restore presidential primary elections in the state.
While some of the measures seek to change state laws, far too many seek to amend the Colorado Constitution. What one might think is the sacrosanct blueprint for government, has in reality become a document that changes more frequently than the weather — more than 150 times, in fact, over the past 140 years. By comparison, the United States Constitution has been amended 27 times in 225 years.
For many Colorado voters, that’s justification enough to reject proposed amendments that have little — and often nothing — to do with running the government.
There’s a reason people pushing ballot measures prefer to change the Constitution rather than state statutes, which are subject to the decisions of the Colorado Legislature. Once approved, a constitutional amendment requires yet another vote to repeal. Meanwhile, we’re all stuck with the amendment, unintentional consequences and all.
Given the ease of getting them on the ballot, even the threat of a proposed constitutional amendment can serve as blackmail in promoting certain agendas in Colorado.
Fortunately, there’s relief in sight in one measure on the upcoming ballot that could serve to reduce the number of measures on future ballots.
The proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution would change the process by which amendments make the ballot. Petitions for a citizen-initiated amendment to the Constitution would require signatures from a minimum of
2 percent of registered voters from each of the 35 state senate districts spread across the state. Amendments would then require at least 55 percent of the vote in the election to pass.
Existing provisions require the signatures of at least 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of Colorado secretary of state in the preceding general election — as of right now, 98,492 signatures that may be gathered anywhere. The measure then requires at least 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to pass.
One of the attractions of the proposed measure is that it would make the initiative process more distributive in requiring a broader level of support from across the state, not just the more heavily populated Front Range. Voters in Western Colorado, for example, would have more say.
Best of all, though, the proposed measure makes it at least a bit more difficult to amend the Colorado Constitution — something that should be at least a bit more difficult to do and, in an ideal world, limited to actual matters of state governance.
In the process, there’s the prospect Colorado voters will face shorter ballots. And that’s a good thing as well.