Laws governing the initiative process in Colorado

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Contents
1 Laws and procedures
1.1 Crafting an initiative
1.1.1 Single-subject rule
1.1.2 Subject restrictions
1.1.3 Competing initiatives
1.2 Starting a petition
1.2.1 Proposal review/approval
1.2.2 Applying to petition
1.2.3 Fiscal review
1.3 Collecting signatures
1.3.1 Number required
1.3.2 Distribution requirements
1.3.3 Restrictions on circulators
1.3.4 Electronic signatures
1.3.5 Deadlines for collection
1.4 Getting on the ballot
1.4.1 Signature verification
1.4.2 Ballot title and summary
1.5 The election and beyond
1.5.1 Supermajority requirements
1.5.2 Effective date
1.5.3 Litigation
1.5.4 Legislative tampering
1.5.5 Re-attempting an initiative
1.6 Funding an initiative campaign
1.7 State initiative law
2 Changes in the law

Citizens of Colorado may initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment. In Colorado, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. The Colorado General Assembly may also place measures on the ballot as legislatively-referred constitutional amendments or legislatively-referred state statutes. Referred amendments require a 2/3 vote of each chamber.

Crafting an initiative

Of the 24 states that allow citizens to initiate legislation through the petition process, several states have adopted restrictions and regulations that limit the allowable scope and content of initiated proposals. These regulations may include laws that mandate that initiatives address only one topic, restrict the range of acceptable topics for proposed laws, prohibit unfunded mandates, and establish guidelines for adjudicating contradictory measures.

Single-subject rule

See also: Single-subject rule

In Colorado, each proposed measure must address only one subject. Unlike other states, Colorado's single-subject rule is closely tied to a measure's ballot title. If an approved measure encompasses some subject not clearly expressed in its title, only the unexpressed portion of the law is void. If a measure is too broad to be assigned a title that addresses only one subject, the measure cannot be placed on the ballot. However, if rejected, proponents may revise the measure--deadlines are not extended to accommodate these revisions.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 5.5

Subject restrictions

See also: Subject restrictions (ballot measures)

Colorado does not restrict the subject matter of initiated measures. In addition, initiatives are not required to specify a funding source for mandated expenditures.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1

Competing initiatives

See also: Superseding initiative; "Poison pills"; List of Colorado ballot measures

Colorado law provides that in the event that two measures conflict, the measure with the most affirmative votes supersedes the other on any points of conflict. However, the other measure is not wholly superseded.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 123

Starting a petition

Each initiative and referendum state employs a different procedure for filing petition applications. Some states require preliminary signatures while others do not. In addition, several states review each proposed statute, verifying that the law conforms to the style and conventions of state law and recommending alterations to initiative proponents. Some of these of these states also review the law for more substantive considerations of content and consistency. Also, many states conduct a review of the ballot title and summary, and several states employ a fiscal review process which analyzes proposed laws to determine their impact on state finances.[1][2][3]

Proposal review/approval

See also: Approved for circulation

Initiative proponents must submit the original text of the measure to the directors of the Legislative Council Staff and the Office of Legal Services for review and comment. Proponents must designate two people as those representing the proponents in all matters affecting the petition. Drafts are to be submitted in typewritten form and are to be written in plain, non-technical language, using words with common and everyday meaning understandable to the average reader. The results of the review are presented at a public meeting. The proponents may then make revisions in response to the recommendations given at the meeting. If the revisions go beyond the recommendations, the revised language must be resubmitted. If no further recommendations/comments are required an additional hearing is not required. Compliance with these recommendations is not mandatory.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 105 & Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 5

Applying to petition

See also: Approved for circulation

Once the proposed measure has been reviewed, the original, amended, and final drafts must be filed with the Colorado Secretary of State. The Secretary must then convene a "title board," which includes the Secretary of State, the Colorado Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Legislative Legal Services or the director's designee. At a public meeting, the board selects a title for the measure by majority vote. The title must be phrased in the form of a "yes" or "no" question. The board may also reject a measure if it fails to comply with the state's single-subject rule. If the proponents or any registered voter are unsatisfied with the title board's chosen title or single-subject ruling, a motion for a rehearing may be filed. If objections remain after the rehearing, the proponents or any registered voter may file an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court.

The format for petition sheets is designated by the Secretary. (A sample petition form can be downloaded here.) A proof copy of petition sheets must be filed with the Secretary.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 105; Section 106 & Section 107

Fiscal review

See also: Fiscal impact statement

Prior to the election, the Director of Research for the Legislative Council of the General Assembly prepares a fiscal impact statement detailing any effect a measure will have on revenue, expenditures, taxes, and liabilities. For tax measures, Colorado law also directs the Director to include an estimate of the measure's impact on the average taxpayer. The statement is available to the public upon request and an abstract of the findings are included in the state's ballot information booklet.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 124.5

Collecting signatures

Each initiative and referendum state employs a unique method of calculating the state's signature requirements. Some states mandate a certain fraction of registered voters while others base their calculation on those who actually voted in a preceding election. In addition, many states employ a distribution requirement, dictating where in the state these signatures must be collected. Beyond these overarching requirements, many states regulate the manner in which signatures may be collected and the timeline for collecting them.

Number required

See also: Colorado signature requirements

The number of signatures required for a successful petition is equal to 5% of the total number of votes cast for the office of Secretary of State in the preceding general election. The same number of signatures is required for constitutional amendments, statutes, and referendums.

Year Amendment Statute Veto referendum
2014 86,105 86,105 86,105
2013 86,105 86,105 86,105
2012 86,105 86,105 86,105
2010 76,047 76,047 76,047
2008 76,047 76,047 76,047

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 2

Distribution requirements

See also: Distribution requirements

Colorado does not have a distribution requirement. As such, any proportion of the required signatures may be collected from any county or congressional district.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1

Restrictions on circulators

Circulator requirements

See also: Petition circulator

In Colorado, circulators are permitted to sign the petition that they are circulating.[4] Each initiative petition contains a mandatory circulator affidavit. According to Colorado Revised Statute 1-40-111, a circulator is required to sign these affidavits before a public notary, and he/she must swear to and sign a statement, under the penalty of law, that he/she personally witnessed every act of signing the petition. According to statute 1-40-112, beyond residency, citizen, and badge requirements, those circulating petitions are required at least 18 years of age.[5]

Once circulation is completed, the petitions are submitted to the secretary of state in bound volumes in accordance with statute 1-40-113.[5]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado revised statutes 1-40-111 to 1-40-113

Pay-per-signature

See also: Pay-per-signature

Colorado law restricts per-signature pay to 20% or less of a circulator's compensation. Colorado also requires petition organizations to apply for a license to hire paid circulators. As part of the requirements for this license, at least one of the two designated petition representatives must attend a training course on petition fraud.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 112 & Section 135

Out-of-state circulators

See also: Residency requirements for petition circulators

Colorado requires that petition circulators are US citizens and residents of the state.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 112

Badge requirements

See also: Badge requirements

Colorado law requires that paid and volunteer circulators be identified as such on badges. Colorado law used to require that the badges include the circulator's name, but this requirement was struck down in Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 112 & Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation

Electronic signatures

See also: Electronic petition signatures

Since electronic signatures are an emerging technology, the constitutionality of bans on e-signatures and the legality of e-signatures in states without bans is largely untested. Colorado law does mandate that signatures be collected in person.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 111

Deadlines for collection

See also: Petition drive deadlines; Circulation period

In Colorado, petitioners have six months to collect signatures after the ballot language and title are finalized. Signatures must be filed three months and three weeks before the election in which the measure would appear on the ballot.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 108

Getting on the ballot

Once signatures have been collected, state officials must verify that requirements are met and that fraudulent signatures are excluded. States generally employ a random sample process or a full verification of signatures. After verification, the issue must be prepared for the ballot. This often involves preparing a fiscal review and ballot summary.

Signature verification

See also: Signature certification

After a petition has been filed, the Secretary of State reviews the petitions and signatures to ensure that they are in the correct form. The Secretary then selects 5% of the signatures at random for verification. The total number of valid signature is extrapolated from this sample. If this process shows that less than 90% of the required signatures are valid, the petition is a deemed insufficient. If this process shows that more than 110% of the required signatures are valid, then the petition is deemed sufficient. If the projected total is between 90% and 110%, a complete count is performed. If a petition is deemed insufficient, proponents have 15 days to file an addendum with additional signatures. This period does not extend the final deadline for signature collection.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 116 & 117

Ballot title and summary

See also: Ballot title

Although the ballot title assigned by the title board appears on the ballot, a generic title is also assigned to each measure. Starting in November 2010, ballot measures are numbered as a follows:

Colorado does not include a ballot summary on the ballot. However, the Director of Research for the Legislative Council does prepare a impartial voter information pamphlet with an abstract of the fiscal impact study and arguments for and against the measure. Any person, proponents or opponent, may submit information for consideration in drafting these sections.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 5, Section 407; Article 40, Section 115; Article 40, Section 124.5 & Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 7.5

The election and beyond

Ballot measures face additional challenges beyond qualifying for the ballot and receiving a majority of the vote. Several states require ballot measures to get more than a simple majority. While some states mandate a 3/5 supermajority, others states set the margin differently. In addition, ballot measures may face legal challenge or modification by legislators. If a ballot measure does fail, some states limit how soon that initiative can be re-attempted.

Supermajority requirements

See also: Supermajority requirements

Colorado initiatives do not require a supermajority for approval. This includes initiated statutes, initiated amendments, and referenda.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 4

Effective date

Within 30 days of the canvass of votes, the Governor of Colorado will issue an official declaration of the results. All approved measures take effect on the day of this proclamation.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 4

Litigation

See also: Ballot measure lawsuit news

Different courts are designated for distinct kinds of initiative-related litigation. If an initiative fails to comply with federal law or regulations, a complaint may be filed in Federal District Court. If any registered voter wishes to challenge the sufficiency of a petition, he or she may file a protest with the State District Court with jurisdiction over the county where the petition was filed. Challenges to title board decisions are filed with the Colorado Supreme Court.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 1, Article 40, Section 120; Section 118 & Section 107

Legislative tampering

See also: Legislative tampering

The Colorado General Assembly may change or repeal initiated measures. In the case of initiated statutes, this only requires a simple majority. In the case of amendments, the Assembly must pass the amendment by a two-thirds majority and place it on the ballot. (The same process required for ordinary legislatively-referred constitutional amendments.)

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1, ¶ 4 & Article XIX, Section 2, ¶ 1

Re-attempting an initiative

Colorado does not limit how soon an initiative can be re-attempted.[6]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Colorado Constitution, Article V, Section 1

Funding an initiative campaign

See also: Campaign finance requirements for Colorado ballot measures

Colorado's campaign finance laws include the following notable features:

  • Groups in support or opposition of a ballot measure in Colorado are treated differently than political action committees.
  • Colorado prohibits corporations and labor unions from spending their money to fund advertisements in support or opposition of a ballot issue.
  • Colorado allows corporations and labor unions to donate to Issue Committees.

State initiative law

Article V of the Colorado Constitution provides authority for the initiative and referendum process.

Title 1, Article 40 of the Colorado Revised Statutes governs the initiative and referendum process.

External links

References



Ballot law
BallotLaw final.png
State laws
Initiative law
Recall law
Statutory changes
Court cases
Lawsuit news
Ballot access rulings
Recent court cases
Petitioner access
Ballot title challenges
Superseding initiatives
Signature challenges
Laws governing
local ballot measures
Contents
1 Laws and procedures
2 Changes in the law
2.1 Proposed changes by year
2.1.1 2012
2.1.2 2011
2.1.3 2010

The following laws have been proposed which modify ballot measure law in Colorado.

Proposed changes by year

2012

See also: Changes in 2012 to laws governing ballot measures



The following bills were introduced in the Colorado General Assembly:

Defeatedd HB 1076: Bill description/summary: "The bill permits an initiative or referendum petition to include space for a registered elector to voluntarily include his or her telephone number, electronic mail address, or both. If a space for the information is included, a petition must clearly indicate that the information is not required in order for a registered elector to sign the petition."

Defeatedd HCR 1003: Proposes a constitutional amendment that would impose a 60% supermajority requirement on the passage of constitutional amendments. However, it would allowed voters to repeal amendments passed before 2013 with a simple majority. Although the supermajority requirement applies to both referred measures and initiated measures, the bill also imposes a distribution requirement on citizen initiated measures. The bill's demise came after a co-sponsor of the bill accused a committee member of "hijacking" the legislation. 80 Colorado amendments have been approved in the past 45 years.[1]

Approveda Colorado House Bill 1293 (2012): The bill makes various changes and clarifications in the laws governing recall elections.

2011

See also: Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures



The following bills were introduced in the Colorado General Assembly:

Approveda Colorado House Bill 1035 (2011): HB 1035, if enacted, will require the state's "ballot information booklet (blue book) or other publication of initiated and referred measures to contain a statement before each measure informing the voter that the title was drafted by professional staff and is a summary for ballot purposes only. The statement also informs voters that the text of a referred measure was thoroughly debated by the general assembly and that the text of an initiated measure was drafted by the initiative proponents. Finally, the statement for referred measures informs voters that the measure is included on the ballot because it has passed a majority vote of the state senate and the state house of representatives, while the statement for initiated measures states that the measure is included on the ballot because the proponents have gathered the required amount of petition signatures."
Approveda Colorado House Bill 1072 (2011) HB 11-1072 creates several new requirements for initiative proponents. In particular, the bill requires proponents, within ten days of filing, to produce a report detailing all the expenditures relating to the circulation of the initiative. The report must include the dates of circulation, total hours worked, and gross wages earned by each circulator. After the report is filed, any registered voter may challenge the report within ten days. Initiative proponents then have ten days to correct the error or a judicial hearing is scheduled. If the judge determines that an intentional violation did occur, the proponents are subject to a fine equal to three times the omission. In addition, proponents may be subject to civil action by the voter who brought the challenge for the recovery of legal fees.[1] Citizens in Charge Foundation rating: Reduces initiative rights.
Defeatedd Colorado House Bill 1090: HB 1090 would make several stylistic changes to ballot titles. The changes are intended to clarify ballot titles and the meaning of a "yes" or "no" vote.

Defeatedd Colorado House Bill 1304: Bill description/summary: "Section 1 of the bill requires the title board, when setting a title for a proposed initiated law or constitutional amendment, to write the title, to the extent possible, in plain, nontechnical language and in a clear and coherent manner using words with common and everyday meaning that are understandable to the average reader. Section 2 requires the same standard for the ballot title of a statewide referred measure."

Defeatedd Colorado Senate Concurrent Resolution 1: SCR 1 was a constitutional amendment that would require proposed amendments to receive a 60% super-majority for passage. This requirement would not apply to amendments repealing, wholly or partially, amendments passed before 2013. In addition, the amendment would create a geographic requirement based on the state's congressional districts. While these provisions would make the initiative process more difficult, the bill would require lawmakers to earn a 2/3 majority to modify or repeal a ballot measure for three years following its passage.[2] Citizens in Charge Foundation rating: Reduces initiative rights.


2010

See also: Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures



The following bills were introduced in the Colorado General Assembly:

Approveda Colorado Senate Bill 216 (2010): SB 216 would re-order how initiatives are placed on the ballot, putting legislatively-referred initiatives first before citizen initiated measures.[1] The bill passed the Colorado State Senate on May 7, 2010 by a 22-13 vote[2]. The Colorado House of Representatives passed the bill on May 11, 2010 by a 42-23 vote[3]. The bill was signed into law on June 10, 2010[4].

Approveda Colorado House Bill 1370 (2010): HB 1370 is a 2010 Colorado law which modifies Colorado's initiative laws. The bill requires the Secretary of State to inform approved petitioners about issue committee requirements (issue committees must be registered if 200+ petition sections are accepted or printed as part of circulation). The law additionally requires that those providing input on for/against arguments must provide identifying information. The law also clarifies, by a conforming amendment, the term "major purpose" as it relates to campaign finance provisions in the Colorado Constitution. In addition, the law requires that campaign ads/materials costing more than $1,000 must include a disclaimer with the name of the committee financing the material. The law also defines monetary penalties for willfully failing to file campaign finance reports in a timely manner.[5]

The bill was approved by the Colorado House of Representatives on April 22, 2010, on a 51-10 vote with 4 Representatives not voting[6]. The Colorado State Senate approved the bill on May 10, 2010 on a 25-10 vote[7]. The bill was signed into law by Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter on May 25, 2010[8].

Defeatedd SCR 3: This law would add a distribution requirement to the petition process for initiated constitutional amendments in Colorado, which currently does not have one. Specifically, it would:

Defeatedd HB 1366: This law would make it illegal for a person who is on parole or probation for offenses involving unlawful sexual behavior or felony fraud to act as a petition circulator. The bill was approved by the Colorado House of Representatives on a unanimous 64-0 vote on May 4, 2010[10]. The bill died in Senate Committee[11].

Defeatedd HB 1423: This law would eliminate the state's current residency requirement and change the wording of the affidavit portion of Colorado initiative petitions to reflect that the residency of the circulator is not required. The bill died in the General Assembly without a vote in either house of the Legislature[12].

Defeatedd HB 1047: This would establish a uniform style for statewide ballot titles. Changes would include:

  • Removing the requirement that the rules of the Colorado General Assembly concerning the single-subject rule for its legislation be followed when setting ballot titles.
  • Replacing the phrase "and, in connection therewith," with the word "that:;"
  • Presenting the central features of the ballot issue in a list rather than in paragraph style; and
  • Using indented bullets at the beginning of each item in the list.
  • Expanding the "yes" or "no" response to instead say "Yes/For" or "No/Against."

The bill was approved by the Colorado House of Representatives on February 9, 2010 on a 55-7 vote with 3 Representatives not voting.[13]. The bill died in Senate committee[14].

Defeatedd HB 1424: would change the petition drive deadline for initiative petitions back to 3 months and 3 years before an election, rather than the three months it was changed to with the enactment of HB 09-1326. The bill died without a vote in either house of the General Assembly[15].

Defeatedd HB 1432 would restrict what information could be printed in the Colorado Blue Book, the state's official publication outlining ballot measures. The bill died without a vote in either house of the General Assembly[16]

Defeatedd HB 1100: HB 1100 would have:

  • Prohibited proponents of an initiative from withdrawing an initiative petition from the ballot or from consideration for the ballot after signatures to qualify it for the ballot had been submitted to election officials.
  • Repealed the state's current law that authorizes the proponents of an initiative petition to withdraw the petition from consideration by requesting the Colorado Secretary of State, no later than 60 days prior to the election, not to place the petition on the ballot.
  • Specified that the proponents or the designated representatives of the proponents of an initiative petition withdraw an initiative petition if the proponents or the designated representatives of the proponents:
  • Do not submit the initiative petition to the secretary of state for title setting;
  • Do not circulate the initiative petition for signatures after the titles and submission clause have been fixed and determined;
  • Discontinue circulation of the initiative petition prior to the expiration of the period for filing an initiative petition with the secretary of state; or
  • Do not file the initiative petition with the secretary of state for the examination of names and signatures.
  • Made it illegal and a class 1 misdemeanor offense for any person, directly or through any other person:
  • To pay, loan, or contribute, or offer or promise to pay, loan, or contribute, any money or valuable consideration to or for the proponents or the designated representatives of the proponents of an initiative petition, or to or for any other person, to compel, induce, or prevail upon the proponents or designated representatives to withdraw the petition from consideration as a ballot issue; or
  • To receive, agree to accept, or contract for any money, contribution, gift, loan, or other valuable consideration for withdrawing or agreeing to withdraw an initiative petition from consideration as a ballot issue.

The bill died without a vote in either House of the General Assembly[17]