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Stories about Colorado

Voters in Colorado Springs approved Issue 1 regarding ballot titles for ballot measures

According to unofficial election results, Colorado Springs voters approved Issue 1 by 65.9% to 34.1%. Issue 1 amended the Colorado City charter to allow ballot titles for tax or bonded debt increases to exceed 30 words.

Yes on 1 Colorado Springs led the campaign in support of Issue 1. In support of the change, the campaign said, “Limiting ballot language to just 30 words isn’t enough space to give voters a clear and thorough explanation of what they are voting on. Removing the 30-word restriction will allow Colorado Springs voters to have the details of how our tax dollars will be spent.”

The charter amendment was put on the ballot through a unanimous vote of the Colorado Springs City Council on Jan. 26.



Voters recall Colorado school board member

A recall election seeking to remove Lance McDaniel from his position as the District A representative on the Montezuma-Cortez School District Board of Education in Colorado was approved by voters on Feb. 16, 2021. Cody Wells was elected to replace McDaniel on the board.

The recall effort started in July 2020. Recall supporters said McDaniel had shown a “lack of leadership and has proven to be a poor role model for our children,” regarding several of his social media posts. The petition stated, “We need school board members that understand leadership and the power of mentoring, and know not to voice their personal, political, or social opinions that could influence children.”

McDaniel said he was not concerned about the recall effort. “When it gets down to it, I’m a loudmouth liberal, and they don’t like that,” he said. McDaniel said he stood by his social media posts. “The conservatives don’t like the fact that there are some more progressive people in the town,” he said. McDaniel was one of seven members on the board of education. He was appointed to his position in 2018.

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters of the effort had to submit 1,126 signatures in 60 days. The number of signatures was equal to 40% of the citizens in the school district who voted in the last school board election. Recall supporters submitted the signatures by the deadline, and Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell determined enough signatures were valid. Before a recall election could be scheduled, four challenges were submitted against the petition, saying the petition was “baseless, frivolous and infringes on Mr. McDaniel’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.” A hearing on the challenges was held on Nov. 19, and the challenges were denied on Nov. 23. Hearing Officer Mike Green said that the recall petition met the statutory requirements. The filing deadline for successor candidates was Jan. 8.

Three other school board recall elections have been scheduled so far this year. All three are in Idaho and are being held on March 9.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Colorado school board recall election to be held Feb. 16

A recall election seeking to remove Lance McDaniel from his position as the District A representative on the Montezuma-Cortez School District Board of Education in Colorado is being held on February 16, 2021. 

The recall election ballot has two questions. One asks if voters are in favor of recalling McDaniel with the option to vote yes or no. The other question lists the successor candidates. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of recalling McDaniel, the successor candidate who receives the most votes will replace him on the board. If a majority of voters cast ballots against recalling McDaniel, he will retain his position on the board.

The filing deadline for successor candidates was January 8. Cody Wells was the only candidate to file.

The recall effort started in July 2020. Recall supporters said McDaniel had shown a “lack of leadership and has proven to be a poor role model for our children,” regarding several of his social media posts. The petition stated, “We need school board members that understand leadership and the power of mentoring, and know not to voice their personal, political, or social opinions that could influence children.”

McDaniel said he was not concerned about the recall effort. “When it gets down to it, I’m a loudmouth liberal, and they don’t like that,” he said. McDaniel said he stood by his social media posts. “The conservatives don’t like the fact that there are some more progressive people in the town,” he said.

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters of the effort had to submit 1,126 signatures in 60 days. The number of signatures was equal to 40% of the citizens in the school district who voted in the last school board election. Recall supporters submitted the signatures by the deadline, and Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell determined enough signatures were valid. Before a recall election could be scheduled, four challenges were submitted against the petition, saying the petition was “baseless, frivolous and infringes on Mr. McDaniel’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.” A hearing on the challenges was held on November 19, and the challenges were denied on November 23. Hearing Officer Mike Green said that the recall petition met the statutory requirements.

McDaniel is one of seven members on the board of education. He was appointed to his position in 2018.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 80% of local ballot measures were approved in 2020

80% of measures in top 100 cities were approved in 2020

Last week, we gave you a summary of our annual report on California local ballot measures. Today, we’re back with an analysis of the approval rates, notable topics and measures, and more in the top 100 largest cities last year.

Ballotpedia covered 314 local ballot measures in the nation’s 100 largest cities in 2020. The 314 measures appeared in 26 different states and Washington, D.C. 

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Voters approved 252 measures (80.3%) and defeated 62 (19.7%). That approval rate was five percentage points below what it was in 2019 (85.1%) and eight percentage points below 2018 (88%).
  • There were 109 measures (34.7%) in California. 
  • 174 measures (55.4%) proposed bond issues or taxes. Of those, 126 were approved, and 48 were defeated.
  • There were 92 local bond measures. The measures proposed a total of $32.16 billion in bond money. Voters approved 67 measures amounting to $25.567 billion. Voters rejected 25 measures amounting to $6.593 billion.
  • Twenty-two measures (7.0%) concerned elections, campaigns, voting, and term limits.
  • Twenty measures (6.4%) concerned law enforcement or police policies.
  • Washington, D.C., became the fifth city to decriminalize psilocybin and the first city to decriminalize all entheogenic plants and fungi.
  • Fourteen measures were put on the ballot by initiative signature petitions, and 300 were referred to the ballot by city councils, county boards, school boards, special district boards, or, in two cases, state legislatures.

Keep reading at the link below to view the full analysis.

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$1.337 billion bond issue to appear on Colorado’s 2021 ballot

As yesterday’s Tuesday Count—a weekly report showing ballot measures that have been certified in the past week—showed, we’re off to a busy start for the 2021 ballot measures cycle. So far, eight state ballot measures have been certified for this year. This is the largest number of ballot measures to be certified by the second week in January of an odd-numbered year since at least 2011 (the average number is two).

Seven of the measures will appear on the ballot in Rhode Island, and one will appear on the Colorado ballot. Today, let’s take a look at the Colorado measure.

The Colorado Transportation Bond Issue would authorize $1.337 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects with a maximum repayment cost of $1.865 billion over 20 years.

The measure was initially proposed in Senate Bill 1, which was passed by the state legislature during the 2018 legislative session. The measure was set to appear on the November 2019 ballot provided neither of the two citizen initiatives designed to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes were passed in November 2018. Both 2018 measures failed. The legislature then delayed the bond issue to the 2020 ballot and then delayed it to the 2021 ballot.

From 1999 to 2019, 14 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd-numbered years. Voters approved six of them and defeated the other eight.

Between 2010 and 2020, 50 transportation-related measures appeared on ballots across the U.S. Click here to learn more. 

And to keep up on ballot measure certifications, subscribe to our State Ballot Measure Monthly email. 

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Judith French appointed Ohio Director of Insurance

January brings inaugurations, which often cause a chain reaction of newly appointed officeholders. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been processing hundreds of officeholder changes. Here’s an example of a state executive change in Ohio.

On Jan. 19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) appointed Judith French (R) as the state director of insurance. She succeeds interim director Tynesia Dorsey. 

The director is a cabinet-level executive position in the Ohio state government and the chief officer of the Department of Insurance. The director is responsible for ensuring the laws and regulations related to insurance are enforced across the state.

The office of insurance commissioner is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.

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State supreme court vacancies in 2021

So far in 2021, there have been two new state supreme court vacancies in two of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have both been caused by retirements. 

In Colorado, Chief Justice Nathan Coats retired on January 1, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 72. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) appointed Maria Berkenkotter to the Colorado Supreme Court on November 20, 2020. Berkenkotter is Polis’ first nominee to the seven-member supreme court. In South Dakota, Chief Justice David Gilbertson retired in early January, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Scott P. Myren to the South Dakota Supreme Court on October 28, 2020.

Currently, Maine is the only appointment state which had a vacancy in 2020 which has yet to be filled.

Three more states will see vacancies from retirement on their state supreme courts in 2021:

• Joel Bolger, June 30, 2021, Alaska

• Leslie Stein, June 4, 2021, New York

• Eugene Fahey, December 31, 2021, New York

In Alaska, the vacancy will be filled by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy. Both of the vacancies on the New York Supreme Court will be filled by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Colorado Supreme Court rules that state board must defer to disciplinary actions taken by other state agencies

Photo of Colorado State Supreme Court building

On Dec. 21, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in DOC v. Stiles that the Colorado State Personnel Board (Board) must defer to disciplinary decisions made by state agencies. The court’s decision aimed to shed light on the standard the Board must apply when reviewing other state agencies’ disciplinary decisions. 

The court held that when the Board considers appeals of decisions to discipline agency employees, they must apply the “arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to rule or law” standard instead of reviewing the facts of the case on a de novo basis. 

The arbitrary or capricious standard instructs the Board to give deference to the disciplinary action taken by the state agency. It prevents the Board from overturning such actions unless the agency failed to give honest consideration to the evidence involved in the case or violated a law or rule. De novo review would allow the Board to evaluate the evidence in the case and make its own decision without regard for the earlier conclusions made by the state agency that decided to discipline an employee.

The court remanded the case back to the state administrative law judge (ALJ), working for the Board, who had overruled the state agency disciplinary action at issue in the case. 

In the opening paragraph of the opinion announcing the decision, Justice Carlos Samour wrote about the stakes of the case in the following way: “At a micro level, it will affect whether Mathew Mark Stiles keeps his job at the Department of Corrections (“DOC”). At a macro level, it will affect the 30,000-plus other certified state employees in Colorado’s personnel system.”

The standard articulated by the Colorado Supreme Court is similar to the arbitrary-or-capricious test established by the federal Administrative Procedure Act. Under that test, courts reviewing agency actions invalidate any that they find to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

To learn more about state administrative law judges or judicial deference, see here:

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Text of the decision:



Filing deadline passes for successor candidates in Colorado school board recall

A recall election seeking to remove Lance McDaniel from his position as the District A representative on the Montezuma-Cortez School District Board of Education in Colorado is being held on February 16, 2021. The filing deadline for candidates wishing to replace McDaniel if the recall is successful was January 8. One candidate—Cody Wells—filed.

The recall election will have two questions. One will ask if voters are in favor of recalling McDaniel, with the option to vote yes or no. The other question will list the successor candidates. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of recalling McDaniel, the successor candidate who received the most votes will replace him on the board. If a majority of voters cast ballots against recalling McDaniel, he will retain his position on the board.

The recall effort started in July 2020. Recall supporters said McDaniel had shown a “lack of leadership and has proven to be a poor role model for our children” due to several of his social media posts. The petition stated, “We need school board members that understand leadership and the power of mentoring, and know not to voice their personal, political, or social opinions that could influence children.”

McDaniel said he was not concerned about the recall effort. “When it gets down to it, I’m a loudmouth liberal, and they don’t like that,” he said. McDaniel said he stood by his social media posts. “The conservatives don’t like the fact that there are some more progressive people in the town,” he said.

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters of the effort had to submit 1,126 signatures in 60 days. The number of signatures was equal to 40% of the citizens in the school district who voted in the last school board election. Recall supporters submitted the signatures by the deadline, and Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell determined enough signatures were valid. Before a recall election could be scheduled, four challenges were submitted against the petition, saying the petition was “baseless, frivolous and infringes on Mr. McDaniel’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.” A hearing on the challenges was held on November 19, and the challenges were denied on November 23. Hearing Officer Mike Green said that the recall petition met the statutory requirements.

McDaniel is one of seven members on the board of education. He was appointed to his position in 2018.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

Additional reading:



Colorado school board recall scheduled for February 2021

A recall election seeking to remove Lance McDaniel from his position as the District A representative on the Montezuma-Cortez School District Board of Education in Colorado is being held on February 16, 2021.

The recall effort started in July 2020. Recall supporters said McDaniel had shown a “lack of leadership and has proven to be a poor role model for our children,” regarding several of his social media posts. The petition stated, “We need school board members that understand leadership and the power of mentoring, and know not to voice their personal, political, or social opinions that could influence children.”

McDaniel said he was not concerned about the recall effort. “When it gets down to it, I’m a loudmouth liberal, and they don’t like that,” he said. McDaniel said he stood by his social media posts. “The conservatives don’t like the fact that there are some more progressive people in the town,” he said.

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters of the effort had to submit 1,126 signatures in 60 days. The number of signatures was equal to 40% of the citizens in the school district who voted in the last school board election. Recall supporters submitted the signatures by the deadline, and Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell determined enough signatures were valid.

Before a recall election could be scheduled, four challenges were submitted against the petition alleging that it was “baseless, frivolous and infringes on Mr. McDaniel’s First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.” A hearing on the challenges was held on November 19, and the challenges were denied on November 23. Hearing Officer Mike Green said that the recall petition met the statutory requirements.

McDaniel is one of seven members on the board of education. He was appointed to his position in 2018.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Colorado governor appoints Maria Berkenkotter to state supreme court

Photo of Colorado State Supreme Court building

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) appointed Maria Berkenkotter to the Colorado Supreme Court on November 20, 2020. Berkenkotter will succeed Chief Justice Nathan Coats, who is retiring in January 2021 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72. Berkenkotter is Polis’s first nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under Colorado law, state supreme court justices are selected through the assisted appointment method. The governor chooses an appointee from a list of candidates submitted by the judicial nominating commission. Initial terms on the supreme court last at least two years, after which justices stand in retention elections. Subsequent terms last 10 years.

Berkenkotter was a judge for the Twentieth Judicial District Court in Colorado from 2006 to 2017. She was appointed by former Governor Bill Owens (R) and became chief judge in 2013. 

Prior to joining the Twentieth Judicial District Court, Berkenkotter ran the Antitrust, Consumer Protection, and Tobacco Litigation Units of the Attorney General’s office. Previously, she practiced law at Holmes & Starr, P.C. in Denver.

Berkenkotter earned a J.D. from the University of Denver Law School in 1987. 

The Colorado Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. As of November 2020, six judges on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor, and one judge was appointed by a Republican governor.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Recall petitions submitted against two Colorado school board members

Recall petitions seeking to remove Kurt Wassil and Stephanie Buker from their positions on the Elbert County School District C-2 school board in Colorado were submitted to the county for verification on November 13, 2020. The recall effort also initially included board member Stacy Morgan, but no petitions were submitted against her by the deadline. To get the recalls on the ballot, 244 petition signatures must be verified by the Elbert County Clerk and Recorder. The county has 15 days to review the signatures.

The recall petitions against the three board members were submitted to the county clerk and recorder on September 9 and deemed sufficient to circulate on September 14. The petitions read: “Our schools have suffered loss of staff, and extracurricular activities/programs. The art program was eliminated for K-12, yet the auto shop program continues for 6 students at a budget of over $35,000. Student enrollment/ratings are the lowest in Kiowa’s history and yet the superintendent is the highest paid in Kiowa’s history. Lack of support for staff and teachers has resulted in low morale, an unhealthy work environment, and a 42 percent turnover in teachers during 2018-2019.”

In reaction to the recall effort, Wassil said the board acknowledges every year that they are deficit budgeting. He said, “We try not to cut programs or classes, but we have to anticipate the budget each year, and there’s a lot of guesswork with the revenue, we get funds from a lot of different sources. A lot of times you don’t know what the revenue will be until school starts and we get an actual number of students who are enrolled.”

Wassil is serving his second term on the board, which expires in 2021. Buker is also serving her second term on the board, which expires in 2023. Morgan is serving her first term on the board, which expires in 2023.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading: