The system for placing issues on the ballot in our state is rigged, and not in the best interest of the citizens. Here’s one example. I’m one of the sponsors of the Vote on Fees initiative (Proposition 117), and in order to get on the ballot we had to endure a months-long process that involved the Title Board dissecting, rewriting, and finally approving the language that would appear on the ballot. Then we partnered with a coalition of liberty-minded groups to gather more than 196,000 signatures, and finally we were approved by the Secretary of State. Phew.
Now, we have the difficult task of explaining to voters that behind the confusing ballot language is a simple idea – that we should have a vote on massive new fee-based enterprises, which feel a lot more like tax increases. And that you should vote yes!
For another issue, however, the process was totally different. With Amendment B, which would repeal the Gallagher Amendment from Colorado’s Constitution, legislators wrote the ballot language. The same legislators approved it. Done.
Back in August, Michael Fields wrote a great piece about the biased ballot language in Amendment B, and how legislators are putting their thumb on the scale of justice. Here’s a fun fact: Ballotpedia, a “digital encyclopedia” of all things politics, says a person needs 43 years of formal education in order to understand Amendment B.
The final process in our ballot issue system is the “Blue Book” information guide. You know it…it’s that blue book that every registered voter in Colorado gets in the mail around now. Well, our state legislators approve that too. In an unprecedented move, the legislative committee took the language written over months of hard work by non-partisan staff and completely rewrote it to make voters think that it won’t raise their property taxes.
How mad would you be if you were that staffer who put in the time to write, research, and rewrite an analysis only to have it changed to this degree in order to advance an agenda? Then to have it handed out and voted on within three minutes without any chance for public objection. We should all be mad.
I mentioned before that the Blue Book goes out to every voter in the state. If my organization wanted to send out a piece of literature telling people that they should vote NO on Amendment B because it is a massive property tax increase (you should, and it is), we would have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and report our spending to the Secretary of State. Even then, voters would know it came from our organization because we would have to include a disclaimer.
So, here’s what I want you to do. Tear out pages 7 through 13 of your Blue Book and put them in the same pile where you put the other campaign mail. Because that’s where it belongs.
I’m one of the first to admit that there are serious problems with the Gallagher Amendment. The legislature and interested parties need to work together to make changes that will work better for the whole state, especially rural areas. That’s been a fact for a long time, and when Amendment B goes down, maybe that will be the spark that they need to follow through on a better solution.
While I disagree, I get that many legislators think they need more tax money to make up for the cuts they had to make this year. Just about every one of us has had to make cuts and adjustments in our personal lives this year. But legislators are using dirty tactics to try to trick voters into paying higher taxes.
The process matters, and this is just not right.
Lindsey Singer is communications director for Colorado Rising Action