photo by Amanda Brauchler
Voter Guide to Colorado’s 2020 Ballot Measures
Nov. 3, Colorado residents will vote on eleven issues on the Colorado ballot. Use this guide to each amendment or proposition on Colorado's 2020 election ballot to vote and make your voice heard this election.
October 27, 2020
The 2020 Colorado ballot consists of Amendments and Propositions. Amendments refer to making changes in the current Colorado Constitution. Propositions refer to establishing new laws or programs.
With the election coming up, and 11 issues on the Colorado ballot, sometimes reading through the BlueBook or a Google search or a government website can leave one lost in the whirlwind of confusing wording, obscure political vocabulary, and verbose legal sentences. Below is the background on each ballot issue and a researched description of what a vote “yes” and a vote “no” mean for each. In addition, each issue’s argument will be included, along with student opinions. There will also be links to all of the sources used to conduct research, enabling students to do further research independently. Ballotpedia and the Colorado Blue Book will be linked throughout.
Students’ Thoughts on WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE:
“It is important for kids to get active in politics because this year has so much division and animosity when it comes to opposing views. By us [teenagers] wanting to show our voice and wanting to participate in civics it shows the type of generation we will be politically. By promoting activity in politics, it is going to reflect on the type of generation we will be in the future. I’m working at a voting place, I will be vo… I am really excited to vote, it’s my first year to vote, and I’m excited to have a say in such a divided situation and I ultimately hope to bring some clarity to it.” Jacob Aragon ‘21 said.
“I think that it’s important for young people to get involved in this election cycle because it really sets the tone for the rest of our generation for when we are all eligible to vote; we’ll already have been using our voices and been proactive and gotten our message across without being able to vote, so when we are able to vote, it really will make a difference in this world if we haven’t already.” Grant DeRose ‘21 said.
“I think that this election is a lot different than any election in the past, it’s a very pivotal one for our democracy. I think our country is more divided now than it has been in past years, so I’m really excited to contribute this year. I would say that even if you don’t vote, it’s still a vote for a certain candidate, so it’s really important to be educated and learn about who you’re going to vote for and have a voice and participate because democracy only works if we all participate.” Dara Burkholder ‘21 said.
Amendment B: Repeal the Gallagher Amendment of 1982
BACKGROUND: The Gallagher Amendment of 1982 established that the state must maintain a residential property tax to non-residential property tax ratio of 45% to 55%. Under the Gallagher Amendment, non-residential tax, the category under which personal property falls, must have an assessment rate of 29% (ColoradoSun). To establish the 45:55 residential:non-residential property tax ratio, initially in 1982, this put residential tax assessment rates at about 21%. As home values have increased since then, this value has had to decrease (and has to about 7.15%) to keep residential property taxes as comprising 45% of state property tax (ColoradoSun).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES repeals the Gallagher Amendment, which would allow the Colorado state government to increase property taxes, which would mean increasing funding for local government establishments (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: According to Douglas County, property taxes fund entities in the county from which they were collected specifically. If these taxes are increased with abolishment of the Gallagher Amendment, there would be more funding for establishments funded by county revenue, such as schools, law enforcement, roads (Douglas County).
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO keeps the Gallagher Amendment, meaning that residential property tax assessment rates would stay lower than non-residential property tax assessment rates.
EXPLANATION: This protects homeowners and monitors the amount they pay in taxes; however, it means decreased funding for schools, law enforcement, and roads (Ballotpedia). The amount of taxes paid is equal to the assessment value times the tax rate. The assessment value is equal to the actual property value multiplied by the assessment rate (Douglas County). Thus, if home values rise at a more rapid rate than non-residential property values, the less the residential property tax assessment rate has to be in order to maintain a consistent 45%:55% ratio of residential:non-residential tax assessment rates.
Amendment C: Changes the amount of years it takes for a charitable organization to obtain a charitable gambling license from five years to three years
BACKGROUND: A charitable gambling license allows charitable organizations to pay employees (at minimum wage only) to help run these activities (Ballotpedia). Ballotpedia raised the question of if the integrity of volunteering is sacrificed if this measure passes and encourages paying those working for charitable organizations; it questioned if charity is still charity if one holds a paid position with an organization that funds the state.
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES makes it so that organizations that run charitable gambling activities, such as bingo and raffles, can obtain their charitable gambling license in less time (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: According to Ballotpedia, the Legislative Council Staff states that increasing the amount of charitable gambling licenses is likely to increase state revenue. This is because paying employees as opposed to having unpaid volunteers creates new income tax for the state.
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO makes it so that charitable organizations still have to have been established for five years before being able to obtain their charitable gambling license.
EXPLANATION: This makes it so that non-profit charitable organizations have unpaid volunteers for longer. (Ballotpedia).
Amendment 76: Change the wording of the Colorado Constitution from stating that “every” citizen to “only” citizens of 18 years of age or more can vote
BACKGROUND: The current language in the Colorado Constitution claiming that “every” U.S. citizen can vote does not specify that those who aren’t U.S. citizens can’t vote (Ballotpedia). Changing the wording of the Colorado Constitution to say “only” U.S. citizens can vote makes it so that those who aren’t citizens and are trying to vote cannot say that the Colorado Constitution doesn’t specifically exclude them. There is also a question of whether or not changing this language will make it so that those who are 17 years of age who are able to vote in the primary elections because they will be 18 at the time of the election can’t vote, but some argue that this is not what the proposition is targeted to affect at all (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES allows for the Colorado state government to change the wording in the Constitution to specifically state that “only” those who are U.S. citizens can vote and not that “every” U.S. citizen can vote.
EXPLANATION: Only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote and wish for the Colorado Constitution to imply that directly so, and passing this amendment ensures that (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO makes it so that the Colorado state government cannot amend the Colorado Constitution language.
EXPLANATION: Non-citizens of the U.S. should have a right to vote in state-level elections or that the change in language is trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist and that the change will discourage some voters from voting (Ballotpedia).
“I don’t think it should be passed because it doesn’t allow every citizen who had the possibility [to] or will be voting at a certain time to be able to vote in elections like the primary,” Jacob Aragon ’21 said.
Amendment 77: Allow residents of Central City, Black Hawk City, and Cripple Creek City to vote whether to increase the single-bet limit and include new game types
BACKGROUND: Central City, Black Hawk City, and Cripple Creek City, according to Ballotpedia, are the only cities in Colorado in which gambling is legal. Currently, there is a limit of $100 on the amount that can be bet in a single bet. In addition, the games allowed in Colorado gambling currently are slot machines, black jack, poker, roulette, and craps. The tax revenue from gambling in Colorado currently goes to funding community colleges.
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES would make it so that residents can vote to establish no limit on the amount that can be bet in a single bet and so that they could also vote to increase the amount of different games that are legal in Colorado gambling (Ballotpedia). In addition, the funding given to community colleges from gambling tax revenue would also go to programs that help with student retention and promote finishing higher education (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: If there is no limit, the gambling industries would do better economically and thus be able to contribute more to Colorado’s economy as a whole (Ballotpedia).
“I support allowing galmbers to make their own decisions as to how much money they bet while gambling because they may choose how to spend the money that they earn,” Tyler Stahl ‘21 said.
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO would make it so that there wouldn’t be able to be an election for residents of these cities to increase the maximum amount able to be bet on in a single bet and so that they could not increase the number of games that is legal in Colorado gambling (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: If there is no limit as to single-bet amounts and if the amount of legal gambling games is increased, it could lead to an increase in problematic gambling and negatively impact the communities of these cities (Ballotpedia).
Proposition EE: Increase tobacco tax and establish taxes on nicotine products
BACKGROUND: Currently, the tax on tobacco products in Colorado is $0.84. Proposition EE would increase this tax to $2.64 by July 2027 (Ballotpedia). This proposition is heavily focusing on this aspect regarding youth health; if these products are more expensive and thus harder to acquire, arguably the rates of teens addicted to nicotine could decrease (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES would increase the current tobacco tax and create taxes on nicotine products, which are not currently taxed in the state of Colorado. In addition, revenue from these taxes would be used to help state programs such as those that fund preschools, housing development grants, and tobacco education programs. Increasing taxes is an attempt to make it more difficult to purchase tobacco and nicotine products (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: This would decrease the amount of teens in Colorado with nicotine addictions, as well as the overall number of Colorado residents with nicotine addictions and provide for a healthier state (Ballotpedia).
“Passing Proposition EE will deter teens all over the world from using nicotine products and hopefully force them to quit due to the limited access,” Ethan Fong ‘21 said.
“I think that the amendment should be passed because education definitely needs more funding in America, and right now because we’re in a pandemic, it would be really good for more funding to go to health,” Izzy Broome ’21 said.
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO would not increase taxes on tobacco products and establish taxes on nicotine products.
EXPLANATION: Youth should be dissuaded from purchasing tobacco products through educational programs and by “enforcement of existing age restrictions” (Ballotpedia).
Proposition 113: Make Colorado part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
BACKGROUND: The electoral college is made up of electors from each state, the number of electors each state has based on its population. When voters from each state vote, the majority vote of that state is the vote of each elector in that state. There are 538 electors in the U.S., and a president needs to win the majority of electoral college votes (270 or more) to win the election. Every state, except Maine and Nebraska, gives all of its electoral college votes to the presidential candidate that won the popular vote in that state. Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral college votes based on the proportion of popular votes each candidate won in their state (BBC). The electoral college is supposed to protect littler states, ensuring that they still have a voice in the election (Time). It is possible for a presidential candidate to win the popular vote but not the electoral college vote, which is what ultimately determines who wins the presidency.
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES makes Colorado part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which gives Colorado’s nine electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote nation-wide.
EXPLANATION: Colorado’s electoral college votes represent the nation as a whole and not just the citizens of Colorado (Ballotpedia).
“I believe the winner of the popular vote should receive our electoral votes because I believe that citizen voice should be represented in our government,” Savannah Brassell ‘21 said.
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO means that Colorado gives its nine electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote in Colorado specifically. If Colorado does not join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, whichever way the majority of Coloradans vote will contribute to the winner of the electoral college votes (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: Passing this proposition could take away voter incentive in Colorado (thus affecting the outcome of the national popular vote), and it would mean that politicians would not campaign as heavily in Colorado, as the electoral college votes are what determine who wins the presidency (Ballotpedia).
“[Passing Proposition 113] would mean that our electoral votes would be worth less, and the results in other states would determine what would happen with our votes. Only if every state agreed to give their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote would I say that would be a good idea,” Rory Bartlett ‘21 said.
Proposition 114: Reintroduce gray wolves to the Colorado ecosystem
BACKGROUND: Gray wolves have not lived in Colorado for many years, but their presence in our ecosystem is needed to maintain proper levels of the animals on which they prey. Reintroduction would be on the western side of the part of the continental divide that runs through Colorado, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission (CPWC) would head their reintroduction and figure out how to use their share of state funding to compensate for land or livestock loss due to gray wolves (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting yes allows the CPWC to put gray wolves back into Colorado’s ecosystem (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: The animals on which gray wolves prey don’t over-consume land resources or other animals in the food chain and would help make sure gray wolves do not go completely extinct (Ballotpedia).
“I believe [gray] wolves should be reintroduced to Colorado and in other areas because they are beneficial to maintaining population control of other species. Gray wolves may be dangerous, but they deserve the same rights to a life outside of captivity as any other wild animal,” Andrew Ruder ‘21 said.
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO would not allow the CPWC to place gray wolves back into the state.
EXPLANATION: Reintroducing gray wolves would harm animals in Colorado’s ecosystem that have been surviving because of the absence of gray wolves, such as deer and other animals already struggling (Ballotpedia).
Proposition 115: Ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy
BACKGROUND: After the court case of Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortions were made legal nation-wide. Since then, states have passed their own laws restricting abortions after certain amounts of time during pregnancies. Proposition 115 is concerned specifically with abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, not abortions in general (Ballotpedia). Currently, Colorado’s legislation around abortions does not make it illegal for a woman to have one at any point during pregnancy. Passing this proposition would not make it illegal for a woman to have a post-22-week abortion if it is determined that the abortion is in the case of a medical emergency and will save the mother’s life (Ballotpedia). Colorado is currently one of seven states in the U.S. that does not restrict abortions at any point during pregnancy (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES allows the state to make abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy illegal. Women would have to go out of state to one that allows them to have an abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy if they chose to do so. If this proposition passes, performing abortions results in the revoking of the doctor’s medical license and a fine; the mother would not face any criminal charges (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: Abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy are unethical, and this gives women 22 weeks to make that decision (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO prevents the state from making a law that makes it illegal for women to have abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: This proposition does not protect women who are victims of rape or incest and takes away a woman’s rights to her own body (Ballotpedia).
“It interferes with the woman’s medical care and opens up a topic to the whole country instead of having the conversation with their doctor and doing what is best for them based on their circumstances,” Nicole Schmitt ‘21 said.
Proposition 116: Lower the Colorado state income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%
BACKGROUND: Colorado’s current income tax is 4.63%, and its state government budget has been increasing over the last few years (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES will cut income taxes, which according to the Blue Book, will allow taxpayers to keep more of their money (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: It will make taxpayers more comfortable spending it and putting it back into circulation to help the economy that is currently suffering (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO will keep Colorado’s income tax rate at 4.63%.
EXPLANATION: Keeping increased state taxes ensures the funding for government entities remains at higher rates; education and health industries will continue to be supported at the level they are. However, it also means that in the current, nation-wide economic struggle, taxpayers have less money to put back into circulation (Ballotpedia). Pulling their money out of circulation in the form of state income tax would redistribute it to state-funded establishments. According to Ballotpedia, because of the economic crisis, cuts to the funding of these government programs have already been made, and reducing state income taxes would further hurt the funding toward these establishments. Also according to Ballotpedia, this tax cut would benefit the wealthy taxpayers more than the other 75% of taxpayers who do not make as much annual income.
Proposition 117: Require Colorado voter approval of the establishment of specific enterprises exempt from TABOR
BACKGROUND: The Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) does not cover enterprises. The TABOR sets guidelines for the interaction and communication between Colorado’s government and residents regarding monetary issues and establishes rules such as that Colorado taxpayers have to vote to approve an increase in state taxes (Ballotpedia). The TABOR, however, does not include enterprises, which make profit from those who directly utilize their goods or services and although are government-owned are not paid for through resident taxes. The Colorado state government, however, has started to collect fees to help fund enterprises. This has been seen as indirectly collecting taxes to fund these government entities (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES would establish the requirement of a state-wide vote as to whether or not an enterprise estimated to have a total revenue of more than $100 million within its first five fiscal years should be established. Because the money from enterprise revenue goes to the government, residents would be able to vote whether or not to support such businesses (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: This would help protect the balance of power between the state government and state citizens and ensure Colorado residents have a say in how much money they contribute to the government.
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO would allow for enterprises predicted to make $100 million or more in their first five fiscal years to be established without voter approval.
If this proposition is approved, it could mean the government has to fund the enterprises that would otherwise be funded by fees by an increase in state taxes or that the government doesn’t offer the service attached to the enterprise. (Ballotpedia). Part of TABOR sets a limit as to how much money Colorado can take in and spend in a year. If the amount of money the government receives in a year exceeds this amount, TABOR establishes that citizens have to vote on whether to let the government use that money or whether they wish to be refunded; if the more-lucrative enterprises are not allowed to exist, this extra funding that would go back to taxpayers or go to government-owned entities such as schools, roads, etc. could be reduced (Ballotpedia).
Proposition 118: Create paid medical and family leave in Colorado
BACKGROUND: A paid medical and family leave program, which Colorado does not currently have, would protect those who request paid leave from repercussions regarding their employment and would provide 12-16 weeks of paid leave at no more than $1,100 a week (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “YES” MEANS: Voting YES allows the state to use payroll taxes to fund, 50% from employers and 50% from employees and prevents employers from being able to punish employees for taking paid leave. This covers circumstances such as childbirth, pregnancy issues, and needing to take care of sick family members (Ballotpedia).
EXPLANATION: Programs allowing paid medical and family leave ensures businesses retain employees and thus improves the economy (Ballotpedia).
WHAT A VOTE “NO” MEANS: Voting NO would prevent the state from creating a paid medical and family leave program.
EXPLANATION: The payments required from employers and employees to support a program like this could be harmful to low-income businesses and hard for them to maintain. In addition, local governments still have the power to make their own rules and could disregard this measure. (Ballotpedia).