You wouldn’t let your second-cousin, Eddie, choose your Spotify playlist for a cross-country road trip. So why let him choose what happens in your community? Be a voter. This country runs best when everyone, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians alike all participate.
So, you know you should be voting on or before November 6. Check out www.vote.org for details on how to cast your ballot. You can drop off your ballot right now if you’re ready. You can vote early in person at a number of different locations before the 6th. Even if you’re not currently registered, you can register in person when you go to vote at a polling place in Colorado. You literally have no excuses not to be a voter.
But…Colorado’s ballot has more than a dozen amendments and propositions we need to vote on, too. And, let’s face it, they’re pretty boring to read.
So, we’re here to give a quick, plain-language, non-partisan, summary of these ballot initiatives. Here is the link to the official blue book for this year’s election. There you can find the full text of every measure, as well as independent analysis and arguments both for and against. We’ll reference the pages on which you can find each measure.
Amendment V – Lower Age Requirement for Members of the State Legislature (pg. 1)
Okay, a nice, easy one to start with. This measure would change Colorado’s Constitution to allow people aged 21 and older to serve as Representatives or Senators in the General Assembly (our legislative branch). Currently the minimum age is 25.
Amendment W – Election Ballot Format for Judicial Retention Elections (pg. 3)
In Colorado, we vote on whether or not to keep our judges in office from time to time. See here for information about these elections in case you’ve never heard of these people. This measure would change our ballots slightly. Right now, each individual judge gets his or her own full question and takes up several lines of your ballot. This Amendment would shorten that up. Check out page 4 to see the proposed change.
Amendment X – Industrial Hemp Definition (pg. 6)
When Colorado voters legalized the production and sale of marijuana a few years back (remember that?), we also changed the definition of hemp. Hemp is not an intoxicant, but it comes from the same plant. Hemp has industrial uses, and the federal government defines what is and is not hemp for these purposes. Right now, the definition Colorado voters approved is different than the federal one. This Amendment would change our constitution to adopt the federal definition.
Amendments Y and Z – Congressional Redistricting and Legislative Redistricting (pg. 8 and pg. 23)
We’re going to talk about these together, because they’re both aimed at the same issue. Our state is split up into a bunch of geographic units – where you live determines which districts you’re a part of, and who represents you in the House of Representatives and the Colorado General Assembly. Right now, like a majority of states, Colorado’s districts are drawn by those very same representatives, subject to governor’s potential veto. These Amendments would take the power of drawing districts and give it to a commission that would have to be balanced between the state’s two largest political parties and independents. Lobbyists, campaign workers, and elected officials couldn’t serve on this commission.
Amendment A – Prohibit Slavery and Involuntary Servitude in All Circumstances (pg. 39)
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits slavery, except for people who are in prison. This Amendment would change Colorado’s Constitution to outlaw involuntary servitude in all circumstances, including for prisoners.
Amendment 73 – Funding for Public Schools (pg. 41)
This Amendment would raise income and property taxes to increase funding for K-12 schools in Colorado. Taxpayers with incomes over $150,000 would be the primary group who would see their taxes rise. The new funding would be controlled at the local level, so individual school districts and their boards would decide what to do with the money. Some people claim that increasing taxes on high earners discourages these individuals from moving to Colorado, hurting economic growth. Others argue that these taxes are necessary to educate Colorado’s workforce over the long haul, and that high earners actually pay a smaller proportion of their total wealth in taxes relative to middle class taxpayers.
Amendment 74 – Compensation for Reduction in Fair Market Value by Government Law or Regulation (pg. 52)
This Amendment would allow property owners to seek compensation when a government regulation reduces the economic value of that property. This measure should be seen in relation to Proposition 112 (we’ll get to that!). Proposition 112 would limit new oil and gas drilling. If you own land that might have oil, but Proposition 112 stopped you from drilling for it, you could use Amendment 74 to sue the government for compensation for that lost revenue. Of course, that’s not the only kind of regulation that Amendment 74 would impact. The Amendment applies to any law or regulation that might impact the fair market value of a property.
Amendment 75 – Campaign Contributions (pg. 54)
Right now, people can only give money to a political candidate in Colorado up to a certain limit. That limit doesn’t apply, though, if you’re donating to your own campaign. Basically, if you’re running for office, you can use as much of your own money as you want in your campaign. This Amendment would increase that contribution limit by five times, if an opposing candidate has donated $1 Million or more to their own campaign.
Proposition 109 – Authorize Bonds for Highway Projects (pg. 56)
The roads in Colorado need work, right? How are we going to pay for it? There are two very different alternatives on the ballot this year to deal with this problem. The first is Proposition 109. Prop 109 would not raise taxes to fix or build roads. Instead, the state would issue bonds (borrow money) to fund a number of specific road projects. All states, including Colorado, have to balance their budgets. Eventually the government would have to either raise new revenues with taxes, or cut the state budget somewhere else to pay for these bonds. We vote on tax increases directly in Colorado, but not on budget cuts.
Proposition 110 – Authorize Sales Tax and Bonds for Transportation Projects (pg. 64)
The second transportation measure on the ballot is Proposition 110. Proposition 110 would raise our sales taxes by about 0.6 percent over a number of years. Reference the Table on page 65 of the Blue Book to get a sense of how much this increase would cost you in real dollars. This measure would also issue bonds (borrow money), which means that if the sales tax doesn’t bring in enough new revenue, then the state will have to either raise taxes again or cut the budget elsewhere to pay the bonds. Proposition 110 would raise more money for roads overall than Proposition 109. Another big difference is that Proposition 110 does not list specific projects to be funded like Proposition 109 does.
Proposition 111 – Limitations on Payday Loans (pg. 79)
A payday loan is a short-term cash loan. These loans don’t require credit checks, and are easily accessible for just about anyone. However, these loans often have high interest rates and other fees. This Proposition would cap the interest payday lenders could charge at 36% (Annual Percentage Rate), and eliminate the fee structures currently in place. See Table 1 in the blue book on page 79 to get a sense of what the impact of this change would be on a typical $500 payday loan.
Proposition 112 – Increasing Setback Requirement for Oil and Natural Gas Development (pg. 82)
Unless you’ve been spending the fall enjoying a silent yoga retreat in the Himalayas (lucky!), you’ve probably already seen a ton of signs and ads about Proposition 112. So what’s the big deal? Right now, new oil and gas development has to be located a certain distance back from homes, schools, hospitals, etc. This distance is called the setback. Currently, setbacks are between 500 feet (for houses) and 1000 feet (for schools, hospitals, correctional facilities, and child-care centers). Proposition 112 would increase this setback to 2500 feet.
This Proposition would reduce the amount of new oil and gas drilling that takes place in Colorado. People disagree on just about everything on this one. People are arguing about whether this Proposition would virtually ban new drilling in Colorado. People are arguing about whether this Proposition would cause significant job losses in Colorado. People are arguing about whether a setback of 2500 feet is necessary to protect public health, or whether Colorado’s current regulations are enough. We’re not taking positions here, of course; we’d just encourage you to do as much of your own research and thinking as you can.
We hope this has been a helpful, non-partisan guide to the upcoming election. Now, get out there and vote!
Matthew P. Hitt is an assistant professor in the political science department at Colorado State University.
Jen Hitt is a current contributor for NCMB. Check out her other great posts here!