Colorado Ballot 2020


Join Active Minds for an objective review of the current issues on the ballot this fall. We will review each proposal, presenting the arguments on both sides. We will also review the referendum and initiatives in Colorado, including its history, pros and cons, and significant legislation that has resulted from this process in the past.

Key Lecture Points

  • Colorado voters go to the polls Tuesday, November 3, 2020 (ballots will be mailed to Colorado voters mid-October).  In addition to voting for President, Senators, US Representatives and other elected offices, every Colorado voter will be asked to vote yes or no on at least eight (and as of late August, as many as 11) state-wide citizen initiatives and referenda.  This year’s citizen-initiated measures include a rare veto referendum regarding the allocation of Colorado’s Electoral College votes; reintroduction of grey wolves; a limit on the gestational time frame in which to perform an abortion; voter qualification and a reduction of the state income tax. Also, on the ballot are measures that were referred to the public by the state General Assembly, including an increase in tobacco and nicotine taxes; a repeal of the 1982 Gallagher Amendment; and rules governing bingo licensing. As of August 18, three other initiatives (a paid family leave program; municipal control of gaming limits; and demanding voter approval of any state program with projected revenue of $100) were being reviewed for signature verification.
  • The Covid-19 crisis posed unique challenges for the signature-gathering process for the 2020 initiatives.
  • Colorado is one of many states that allow the legislature to refer the passage of a law to a vote of the electorate (referendum).  Additionally, the Colorado Constitution permits citizens to amend it or propose a change to the Colorado statutes by way of a direct initiative.
  • Adopting its referendum and initiative process in 1910, Colorado is one of 26 states that allow some form of “direct democracy,” wherein the electorate is able to vote directly on legislation.  Proponents of direct democracy argue that it holds the legislature accountable to the electorate and provides for swift adoption of laws that reflect the desires of the people.  Critics argue that direct democracy creates ballots that are overly confusing and subject to abuse.  Additionally, they argue that legislators are held accountable in a representative democracy by way of elections.

Exploration Questions

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of initiatives and referenda?
  • In what way does the 2020 Colorado ballot demonstrate these advantages and disadvantages?

Reflective Questions

  • Do you think the initiative process fosters the democratic process?  Why or why not?
  • Do you feel more a part of the process when there are a large number of initiatives and referenda or just overwhelmed?

More to Explore

  • Summary of ballot items with yes/no vote explained Click here
  • Colorado Legislative Council analysis of ballot Click here
  • Information on ballot issues Click here

Books For Further Reading

  • Cicero, Quintus Tullius, Philip Freeman.  How to Win An Election.  Princeton University Press, 2012. 99 pages. Cicero’s observations of Ancient Rome’s politics remain pertinent for today’s reader.
    Click here to order
  • Cronin, Thomas E., Robert D. Loevy.  Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State.  University of Nebraska Press, 2012. 440 pages.  This book gives a concise history of Colorado’s constitution and central political institutions as well as an analysis of the state’s political cultures.
    Click here to order