Colorado voters could be prevented from implementing ranked-choice voting – The Durango Herald

Colorado voters could be prevented from implementing ranked-choice voting – The Durango Herald

If Initiative 310 passes this fall, it would dramatically change state elections in a way that could reduce the power of the major parties. (Durango Herald Archive)

Colorado may decide in November whether to move state elections to ranked-choice voting. However, a recent measure by the state legislature could block or delay that change, even if it is approved by voters.

The action centers on Initiative 310, a ballot measure proposed by wealthy political reform advocate Kent Thiry. If passed this fall, it would dramatically change state elections in a way that could reduce the power of the major parties.

The scope of the proposal has raised concerns among some Democratic lawmakers as well as local elected officials. On May 5, the state legislature quietly passed a policy that would make it much more difficult to implement ranked-choice voting statewide. The change was included in a major election-related bill, and some groups are now lobbying Gov. Jared Polis to veto the entire measure.

Democratic Rep. Emily Sirota introduced an amendment to the election bill just before its passage. Establishes logistical obstacles that would delay or prevent the changes proposed in Initiative 310 from taking effect.

Several organizations – including the League of Women Voters of Colorado and several groups that want to change election systems – condemned the amendment, saying it interferes with the ballot initiative process.

“The bill’s transparent attempt to frustrate and override the will of the people expressed through the citizen initiative process is an affront to the people of Colorado and the system of checks and balances that govern them,” a letter from the coalition said.

Sirota said he filed the amendment because it would be irresponsible to require election officials to implement such significant changes in just a couple of years.

“We are being responsible in how this is implemented if it is in fact approved at the ballot box,” Sirota said in an interview. “This is not about creating obstacles to ranked-choice voting, it is simply being implemented in a more responsible way.” , so that our employees have time to learn and adapt.”

Under the amended bill, there is no guarantee the state will ever be able to move to ranked-choice voting or all-candidate primaries. Instead, that could only happen after several local governments independently decide to implement ranked-choice voting first.

The bill is now on Governor Polis’s desk, leaving the final decision up to him. His office said in a statement that Polis is still reviewing the final version of the legislation. Polis has until June 7 to sign or veto the remaining bills this legislative session.

The amendment was first reported by The Colorado Sun.

What the big electoral measure would do

Initiative 310 proposes two major changes that would apply to state and federal elections beginning in 2026:

  • Eliminate partisan primaries. Currently, each party holds primary elections and the winners face each other in the general election. Under the initiative, the state would move to an “all-candidate primary election.” All candidates from all parties would compete in the same primary vote. The top four candidates would advance to the general election, even if they are all from the same party.
  • Move Colorado to ranked-choice voting. Instead of selecting a single candidate in the general election, voters would rank some or all of the candidates. If your favorite candidate turns out to be unpopular and doesn’t get enough votes, he is eliminated and your vote goes to his second choice. This process of elimination and reallocation of votes is repeated until someone achieves a majority of support and wins.

Such changes could undermine the power of the major parties; Voters may be more willing to support nonpartisan or third-party candidates when that election is no longer considered a vote loss. However, the reforms would also require election officials to make significant changes in the coming years.

How state legislators acted to change the rules

The big state elections bill covers a number of topics. Some are technical, while others are important, such as a provision that prohibits foreigners from spending on ballot measures, or one that gives employees more time to respond to public records requests.

But it’s the ranked-choice voting amendment that’s getting the most attention right now. It was presented and approved in less than a minute on a Sunday afternoon, days before the end of the session.

“This amendment was crafted with several of our clerks to ensure that as new voting methods are implemented in different types of elections, we have a good amount of data to analyze and make sure we are not undermining Colorado’s confidence in our elections “Sirota said at the time.

Under the amendment, before the state could implement its new system, local governments in 12 different counties would have to decide to move to ranked-choice elections as well. If there is not enough interest on the part of local governments to make such a change, then Initiative 301 would never go into effect statewide.

The bill also sets out specific requirements on which local governments would have to take action first. The dozen test cases would have to come from counties of a wide range of population sizes, including at least three of the state’s smallest counties (those with fewer than 10,000 active voters). (About half of the state’s counties currently meet that requirement and tend to be politically conservative.)

If RCV reformers eventually convinced enough local governments to make the change, then the state would write a report on how the new system affected voter turnout among disabled voters, nonwhite voters, non-English speakers, and other “historically underrepresented communities.”

Curtis Hubbard, a spokesman for Initiative 310, said the new requirement was intended to “undermine” the ballot initiative, adding, “It’s already been done at the local level in Colorado, and we know it can be done at the state level.” here in Colorado.”

Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said it’s reasonable to ask that reformers start at the local level.

“I guess we’ll have to see. If ranked-choice voting is as popular as proponents say, then they should be able to find communities that are willing to try it and test it,” she said. The association worked on the controversial amendment but did not come up with the idea, he said.

The amendment was approved by oral vote. In a recording of the vote, no legislator can be heard voting. No one asked questions or debated the change, which occurred during one of the last marathon days of the session.

Pressure on the polis

The League of Women Voters of Colorado has joined a group of other nonprofits in urging Polis to veto the entire new bill. Such a decision would end not only the amendment, but all other unrelated changes. Colorado does not give governors the ability to veto individual items within a bill.

“The amendment applies a complicated, and perhaps unenforceable, set of terms and conditions that would indefinitely delay, and likely prevent, its implementation,” reads the letter, which was co-signed by several groups supporting the electoral changes. “…Partisans cannot be allowed to silence the voice of the popular initiative process. That’s what SB24-210 would do.”

Sirota rejected accusations that the legislature’s action was undemocratic, saying Thiry was “buying” his place on the ballot because of how he presented many versions of his initiatives before the titles board.

“He was not willing to talk and interact with people in the legislature to think about what is a reasonable, rational way to further classify choice voting in Colorado,” he said.

Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick urged the governor to sign the bill.

“This bill has become a lightning rod for the ranked-choice voting argument. But we have been working on this for months and months with advocates and legislators and this is a bipartisan bill,” he said.

Hubbard said Initiative 310 supporters would consider legal action if the bill becomes law. Either way, it is likely to be an intense electoral fight.

“Frankly, we believe voters know more than politicians and we hope to prove that in November,” Hubbard said.

Initiative 310 has not yet found its place at the polls. This week he survived a challenge before the state Supreme Court. Now, his supporters will need to gather thousands of voter signatures to qualify for a spot.

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