Amendment 71 gives all Coloradans a voice
Amending the Colorado Constitution is too easy. In fact, it’s been amended more than 150 times in 140 years. Compare that to 27 amendments for the U.S. Constitution since 1789.
The bar is this low: Proponents of an amendment must collect signatures from registered voters equaling 5 percent of those who participated in the previous secretary of state vote — or about 98,000 signatures — from folks from anywhere in the state.
But here is the dirty secret if you have some money and want to amend the Colorado Constitution today:
(1) Round up 200 signature collectors.
(2) Deploy them to downtown Denver and Boulder.
(3) Pay them $2 for each valid Colorado voter signature.
Once each of your signature-gathering contractors has obtained 500 signatures, you have just cleared the bar to get whatever hare-brained change to the state Constitution you want on the ballot. And it cost you $200,000. Most importantly, you didn’t hear from anyone outside of the Denver-Boulder area.
This may look like a gross oversimplification, but it’s not. Maybe in hot election years, the cost is more like $500,000, but that number is budget dust for some special interest supporters.
This is why we were appalled at The Denver Post’s editorial opposing Amendment 71, which would raise the requirements for getting proposed amendments on the ballot. We are not in the business of criticizing other newspapers and fully understand an honest disagreement on an issue like this, but the basis for the Post’s position is just offensive. More on that below.
Amendment 71 would involve the entire state in the amendment process. To get on the ballot, a proposed amendment would require signatures from 2 percent of registered voters from each of the state’s 35 Senate districts.
As a practical matter, only measures with genuine grassroots support will have a chance to get on the ballot if Amendment 71 passes. Proponents of a measure will have to come to Mesa County, hold town hall meetings and make a convincing case for the change, and then do the same across the state.
Proposed changes to the Constitution would require buy-in, not just from one demographic, but from the entire state. Significantly, the process to change a statute remains unchanged by Amendment 71. Interest groups can go to the ballot and change statutes under the same rules as today.
But Amendment 71’s requirements for amending the Constitution will be too expensive, says the Post editorial board. Requiring signatures from all 35 Senate districts sets the bar too high. The effect of the Post’s position is that rural opinions don’t matter. The Post agrees amending the Constitution should be harder, but doesn’t think all areas of Colorado should help determine a proposed amendment’s ballot-worthiness.
The prosperity gap between urban and rural Colorado has perhaps never been wider. The Post’s cynical position opposing Amendment 71 underscores one of the reasons for that chasm.