Colorado voters, if they take their job seriously, have a challenging homework assignment ahead of them.

The Nov. 3 ballot contains a large number of measures in addition to the selection of elected offices. Included here are 11 statewide issues asking voters to amend the Colorado Constitution or the Colorado Revised Statutes or, in one case, both.

So what’s going on here? Well, let’s start with Article V of the Colorado Constitution, which begins: “The legislative power of the state shall be vested in the general assembly …, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and … also have reserve power … to approve or reject at the polls any act or item, section or part of any act of the general assembly.”

Items can make it onto the ballot in two ways. The first is by a highly regulated process of petitioning, with numerous checkpoints along the way intended to be sure these items present only a single issue, are worded “with simplicity and clarity,” and “will not be misleading or likely to cause confusion.” (In particular, trick questions where a no vote means yes, and a yes vote means no are prohibited.) Items can also make it onto the ballot by a referral from the General Assembly. (Here, the General Assembly says to itself something like: “We can’t figure this out so let’s punt it to the people.”)

The fact that ballot items can come from two sources — petitioning and a referral from the General Assembly — has led to a naming system that helps (perhaps) to clarify the source of a ballot item and whether the item affects the Colorado Constitution or the Colorado Revised Statutes.

If the item involves an amendment to the constitution, it is in fact called an “amendment.” If it comes from the General Assembly, it will be assigned a single capital letter. If it comes from the petitioning process, it is given a number, from 1-99.

If the ballot item involves a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes, it is called a “proposition.” If it is a referral from the General Assembly, it is assigned double capital letters. If it comes from petitioning, it is given a number, this time from 100–199.

But back to the petitioning process. For an item to make it onto the ballot by petitioning, the petition must be signed by at least 5% of the number of votes cast for all candidates for the office of secretary of state at the previous general election. And, “to make it more difficult to amend the constitution,” a petition for a constitutional amendment must also be signed by 2% of the registered electors in each of the state’s senate districts.

Other ballot measure details you might find interesting include: Amendments to the constitution require a 55% affirmative vote, unless the vote is to repeal a provision of the constitution. Then, only a majority vote is required.

For propositions amending the statutes, only a simple majority is required. On this year’s ballot, there will be three items referred by the General Assembly (two amendments and one proposition) and eight items coming from the petitioning process (two amendments and six propositions).

One item from each source involves a proposed amendment to the constitution requiring a 55% vote. Everything else requires a simple majority.

All this information and much more, including an analysis of each ballot measure, is contained in a lengthy informational booklet known as the blue book (because, well, it’s blue) prepared by an agency within the General Assembly called the legislative council.

Registered voters will be mailed a copy. It can also be found at the secretary of state’s website, It’s not too early to begin your homework assignment.

Jim Flynn is with the Colorado Springs firm of Flynn & Wright. You can contact him at [email protected]

Jim Flynn is with the Colorado Springs firm of Flynn & Wright. You can contact him at [email protected]

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