Initiative O – Improve the initiative process

I’m done! This is the last one!

This measure will make it harder for citizens to place constitutional amendments on the Colorado ballot for voter approval, but easier to call a vote on state statutes. It will do this by increasing the signature requirement for constitutional amendments by more than 15,000, drop the signature requirement for placing a new state law on the ballot, add a distribution requirement (requiring at least 8% of petition signatures to be gathered in each congressional district), and establish an earlier deadline for filing initiatives.

Further info at Colorado Ballot – The Initiative Petition Requirements Initiative.

Arguments For

Laws sometimes need to be updated to keep pace with a changing world. Referendum O encourages citizens to propose statutory rather than constitutional initiatives. Statutory initiatives preserve the citizens’ right to initiate laws, while giving the legislature flexibility to react when laws require clarification or when problems or unforeseen circumstances arise.

Because the requirements for proposing constitutional initiatives are no different than the requirements for proposing statutory initiatives, the constitution is susceptible to detailed provisions that cannot be changed without another election. Colorado has one of the easiest constitutions to amend through the initiative process. Placing detailed provisions in the constitution limits the ability of the legislature to address policy and fiscal matters. Requiring more signatures for constitutional initiatives makes it more difficult to initiate constitutional amendments, which may make the Colorado Constitution a more enduring framework for state government.

Requiring that signatures for constitutional initiatives be gathered from each congressional district ensures that citizens from across the state support measures before they are placed on the ballot. Due to the relative ease of collecting signatures in heavily populated urban areas compared to sparsely populated rural areas, rural citizens may have a limited voice in determining which issues appear on the ballot.

Allowing the public and state legislators to comment on an initiative at a public meeting early in the process makes the review process more open and helps citizens gain a better understanding of the measure. It also helps proponents identify potential problems, make sure that the measure clearly expresses their intent, and avoid unintended consequences.

Limiting the ability of the legislature to change initiated statutes strikes a balance between protecting initiated statutes and permitting the legislature to address problems that may arise. The two-thirds legislative approval requirement is stringent enough to protect voter intent, but still allows for non-controversial changes that clarify, correct, or improve a statute.

Arguments Against

Referendum O makes it more difficult and expensive for citizens to exercise their right to initiate constitutional changes. Requiring more signatures to qualify for the ballot restricts the public’s ability to address issues that the legislature, courts, and executive branch have not addressed to the public’s satisfaction or in which government officials have a vested interest.

Vote Yes! Vote Yes

Look at this year’s ballot – we have 14 proposed amendments to our state constitution. This is nuts. This does two very important things. First it makes it easier to get state statues on the ballot which will encourage people, when they can use either the statue or amendment approach, to go with the statue. This is very important because if an initiative turns out to have some major problems, the legislature can amend it.

Second, it makes it a bit more difficult to get an amendment on the ballot. And with 14 proposed amendments this time, the need for that is very clear.

My vote on Initiative O

View Results

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10 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    Silly to make it so easy to lock things in as amendments.  

  2. Sage Sam says:

    for your series of posts on the ballot initiatives, I believe that it has been useful for many of us (certainly myself) to see a bit of synopsis while wading through the Blue Book.  

    Are these posts aggregated anywhere so that folks may access them easily?

  3. mAH! says:

    This series of information belongs on is a site put together by The League of Young Voters designed to let informed voters make guides to further inform other voters.  I have made a few in the past.  There is very little content for Colorado so I am encouraging others to add to it.  

  4. mtboneiii says:

    I will be voting NO.  

    Problem is, we need a change to this process that goes beyond simply changing signature requirements.  I was around and heard the special committee that dealth with this and I think this is just not the answer.  Ultimately, anybody who wants to change the constitution can buy more signatures if needed.  We need a change to the fundamental way we change the constitution, not just some arbitrary increase in signature requirements.

    • Dan Willis says:

      I agree this is not the absolute fix we need to protecting our Constitution, but it does go a long way to encouraging initiative groups to take the statutory route instead.

      Personally I would like to see a super-majority vote needed to pass constitutional measures (60% is my ideal number). This amendment does not stop that idea from going forward in the future.

      As for the more money to collect more signatures, there is a provision in this amendment which makes that harder: There has to be a certain number from each Congressional District.

      Anyone who has attempted to petition on as a state-wide partisan candidate has faced this challenge and I am only of only one person (Bruce Benson) who has achieved it; and his petitions were only allowed on the ballot because the State Democratic Party at the time missed the deadline to file the challenge. (I reviewed the Benson petitions and it would have easily been struck down by the courts had they been given a chance at it.)

      Any petition which is particularly controversial will have trouble getting enough signatures in the districts that are politically opposite of the supporters. (Socially conservative issues will have trouble in CD’s 1 and 2; overtly liberal issues will have trouble in CD’s 4, 5, and 6).

      The bottom line for me is we need a system which staunches the flow of lesser issues into the constitution but at the same time does not discourage the intiative process in general. This amendment makes it easier to put initiated laws on the books, but hard for constitutional measures. That’s a good thing.

  5. redstateblues says:

    have you polsters gotten your blue books yet? It’s thicker than the Wasilla, Alaska phone directory.

  6. Jambalaya says:

    ….as long they are not anatomically correct statues.  That’s vulgar.

  7. Whatever'sFair says:

    Referendum O has gotten significant support from both sides of the ideological divide:… This is a huge step in reconciling the rift we have both in the state in and in the country. We also need to beware of how frequently unintended consequences occur from well-meaning initiatives and realize we need to allow the state legislature to act as a safety net (which can’t happen for two years on a state constitutional amendment, but can happen immediately on statutes).

    Perhaps further review of the process as a whole needs to take place but we shouldn’t have to suffer through another election of constitutional clutter and ideology wars while waiting for that to happen. Referendum O will address the symptoms of the imperfect process immediately.

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