Upcoming ballot initiatives reflect Coloradans’ diversity, polarization

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Posted Thu, May 15, 2014

DENVER — From school funding to bovine tail docking – Coloradans’ diverse concerns are reflected in pending 2013-14 statewide ballot initiatives.

Coloradans can drop-off their ballots at designated locations during the fall general election.  Photo by Melanie J. Rice

Coloradans can drop-off their ballots at designated locations during the fall general election. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice]

The Colorado constitution allows citizen-generated proposals to be placed on the statewide ballot provided they meet certain requirements.  The path is complex, but well documented.  It includes a review and comment session, titling by the Secretary of State’s Office, and an opportunity for opponents to appeal proposals.Petition Process Go Box

By the March 31, 2014 submittal deadline for the Nov. 2014 election, 145 initiatives had been submitted.  Since then, 18 have been withdrawn, several have been denied titles, 15 have petition forms approved and only one, No. 5, has completed the approval process to appear on the 2014 ballot.  The rest are somewhere in the process, and some exist in multiple iterations.

Though most Coloradans may vote by mail, they may also vote at their designated polling places.  Photo by Melanie J. Rice

Though most Coloradans may vote by mail, they may also vote at their designated polling places. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice]

Those with approved petition forms have until Aug. 4, 2014 to turn in the 86,105 signatures required to the Secretary of State’s Office for validation and then approval to appear on the ballot.

No. 5, Definition of Person and Child, is a constitutional amendment that seeks to expand the definitions of person and child, ostensibly, to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from criminal offenses by extending the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings.

However, this measure calls to question when life begins, and its opponents fear it could lead to legal action against abortion.

Many of the other measures that have been approved for signature gathering include issues that have recently polarized Coloradans.

No. 49 seeks to extend conceal and carry restrictions in Colorado to public colleges and universities.  Currently, those with conceal and carry permits are restricted from bring handguns onto public elementary, middle and high school properties.

Gun control remains a volatile issue for many Coloradans.  Mass shootings at an Aurora theater, and nationally, at Sandy Hook, Conn., triggered a package of new Colorado gun control legislation in 2013.

The package included legislation limiting large capacity ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and implemented background checks for private sales and transfers.Petition Status Go Box

Not all Coloradans supported these measures.  Recall elections resulted in two Democratic senators’ defeat by Republicans, including former Senate President, John Morse’s defeat by William B. “Bernie Herpin, Jr., in his historically Democratic district.

Pro-gun Coloradans are fighting back. They have introduced ballot initiative No. 41, Repeal Prohibited Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazines.  This initiative would reverse the limit on magazine rounds.

These opposing ballot initiatives underscore the delicate balance in Colorado between individuals’ rights and public safety concerns.

Initiative No. 48, Labeling Genetically Modified Food, successfully defended a Colorado Supreme Court challenge in March and received an approved petition.

This initiative would require labeling in Colorado for genetically modified food.  Petitioners against the initiative argued that the wording was unclear and likely to mislead voters.  However, supporters believe Coloradans have a right to know what is in their food.

Protesters organized by We Are Change Colorado rallied in front of the Denver Post Tuesday afternoon.  They called for mandatory labeling of products containing GMOs in Colorado, as well as more media coverage.  Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu

Protesters organized by We Are Change Colorado rallied in front of the Denver Post Tuesday afternoon. They called for mandatory labeling of products containing GMOs in Colorado, as well as more media coverage. [Photo by Melanie J. Rice • mrice20@msudenver.edu]

The initiative’s co-sponsor, Larry Cooper, of Right to Know GMO – Colorado said they are not asking for a ban – but just for labeling.  Supporters of the initiative recently held a rally in Denver to raise awareness of the issue.

Other initiatives in the pre-petition approval stage include several that seek to implement a graduated income tax to fund public education, and others that would tighten controls on Colorado’s oil and gas industry, particularly fracking – at the local level.

Not all ballot initiatives submitted will make it onto the fall ballot.  In fact, only two made it onto the fall, 2013 ballot.

Ballot initiatives at a glance:

5 Person Child

48 GMO Labeling43 Marriage

49 Conceal Carry

41 Repeal Ammunition Limits

Pre-petition initiatives

Visit this link to see a list of all proposed ballot initiatives, and to check their status:

http://www.leg.state.co.us/LCS/Initiative%20Referendum/1314InitRefr.nsf/acd7e51d3fc2b60b87257a3700571f9f?OpenView&Start=1.86

Learn more about the Colorado ballot initiative process:

http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/Initiatives/guide/main.html

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About Melanie J. Rice

Melanie Rice is a journalism student at MSU Denver, with an emphasis on both visual and written content.

View all posts by Melanie J. Rice

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