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Stories about Colorado

Nov. 2 local ballot measure results final with Dec. 6 recount results in Colorado Springs

On Dec. 6, the El Paso County, Colorado, Elections Department announced the conclusion of a recount on a Colorado Springs School District bond measure, Issue 4B.

Issue 4B failed by 11 votes with 27,476 votes against and 27,465 votes in favor. It would have authorized the district to issue $350 million in bonds for school facility construction and capital improvements.

Issue 4B was the last measure to be called out of the 156 local ballot measures Ballotpedia covered in 18 different states on Nov. 2. Voters approved 109 measures and defeated 47.

Highlights from the local ballot measure results on Nov. 2 include:

  • Voters in Austin, Texas, defeated an initiative to establish minimum police staffing requirements resulting in the city having to hire additional police officers. The initiative was also designed to require additional police officer training and create certain police hiring guidelines and incentives.
  • Voters in Minneapolis defeated an initiative to replace the city police department with a department of public safety.
  • Voters in Cleveland approved an initiative to make changes related to police oversight, discipline, and policies.
  • Voters in Albany, New York, approved a measure to give the existing Community Police Review Board more authority over investigation and oversight over complaints against police.
  • Voters in Detroit, Michigan, approved a measure to create a city reparations committee tasked with making recommendations for housing and economic development programs for Black Detroit residents.
  • Voters in Tucson, Arizona, approved a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative.
  • Voters in Broomfield, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Westbrook, Maine, approved measures to enact ranked-choice voting.

On Dec. 17, Ballotpedia will publish its year-end analysis of all 2021 local ballot measures in the top 100 largest cities and state capitals. This includes local measures that were on the ballot for more than 20 pre-November election dates. Notable topics among local measures this year included

  • police oversight, budgets, structure, practices, and collective bargaining;
  • race and ethnicity;
  • minimum wage;
  • election policies, including ranked-choice voting and campaign finance;
  • public camping bans; and
  • bonds and taxes.


Colorado to vote on reducing income tax rate in 2022

Colorado voters will decide in 2022 whether to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%

The initiative would decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40% for tax years commencing on or after January 1, 2022. The measure would also reduce the tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations operating in Colorado from 4.55% of Colorado net income to 4.40%.

Proponents submitted 215,365 signatures on October 29, 2021. On November 18, 2021, the Colorado Secretary of State found through a random-sample method that 148,189 signatures were projected to be valid. To qualify for the 2022 ballot, 124,632 needed to be valid.

Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and Republican State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg filed the initiative. The Independence Institute describes itself as a free-market think tank with a mission to “empower individuals and to educate citizens, legislators and opinion makers about public policies that enhance personal and economic freedom.” Colorado Character registered as an issue committee to support the initiative. According to campaign finance reports covering information through Oct. 27, 2021, the committee raised $500,000 ($250,000 each from Colorado Rising Action and Defend Colorado). The committee reported expenditures totaling $444,558, of which $444,515.95 was paid to Blitz Canvassing for signature collection.

In 2020, Colorado voters approved Proposition 116, also filed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute and State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R). The initiative decreased the state income tax rate for individuals, estates, and trusts from 4.63% of federal taxable income to 4.55% for tax years commencing on and after Jan. 1, 2020. The measure also reduced the tax rate for domestic and foreign C corporations operating in Colorado from 4.63% of Colorado net income to 4.55%. It was approved by a vote of 57.86% to 42.14%. Two committees led the campaign in support of Proposition 116 in 2020: Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee. Together, the committees reported $1.55 million in contributions. The top three donors (which gave 99.64% of the total contributions) were Unite for Colorado, Independence Institute, and Colorado Rising State Action. Protect Colorado’s Recovery and Fair Tax Colorado registered to oppose the measure. The committees reported $3.19 million in contributions. The top donor was the North Fund, which provided $750,000.

Prior to 1987, the individual income tax rates in Colorado were graduated, meaning those with higher incomes paid higher tax rates and those with lower incomes paid lower rates. The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. According to the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, the rates were lowered to “reduce the TABOR surplus.”

From 2000 through 2018, an average of about nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during even-numbered years. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was about 41%. In 2020, a total of $7,351,906.29 was spent on signature collection for the eight initiatives that appeared on the ballot.

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Colorado Supreme Court approves final state legislative maps

On Nov. 15, 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court approved the state House and Senate maps finalized by the Colorado Independent Legislative Commission on Oct. 11 and 12, respectively. These maps, which redraw the state’s 35 Senate districts and 65 House districts, will take effect for the state’s 2022 state legislative elections.

Colorado was the 16th state to finalize its state legislative redistricting maps following the 2020 census. At this point in the 2010 redistricting cycle, 29 states had completed their state legislative maps.

The Colorado Sun’s Thy Vot wrote that the maps “appear to favor Democrats’ maintaining their majority in the General Assembly.” Colorado Politics’ Evan Wyloge observed that the new maps created nine House districts where previous election results fell within a five percentage point margin of victory and eight such Senate districts. At the time of approval, Democrats held a 42-23 majority in the House and a 20-15 majority in the Senate.

This is the first redistricting cycle following the passage of Amendment Z by voters in 2018, which established a non-politician commission to handle state legislative redistricting. The commission settled on its final House and Senate maps during meetings on Oct. 11 and 12. Under Colorado’s redistricting rules, once the commission approves its final versions, those maps are then sent to the state supreme court for final approval. 

During the supreme court’s approval process, nine organizations and individuals submitted legal briefs in support of or opposition to the maps. Colorado Newsline’s Sara Wilson wrote that “objections to those maps revolve around the argument that they split up cities like Lakewood and Greeley without justification and don’t create enough competitive districts.” Supporters of the maps said that the commission fulfilled the constitutional requirements laid out by Amendment Z, which the supreme court agreed with in the conclusion of its opinion.

The state supreme court previously approved the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission’s congressional map on Nov. 1.

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Colorado voters reject three ballot initiatives, including measure to create education program and raise marijuana sales tax

Three initiatives—Amendment 78, Proposition 119, and Proposition 120— were on the ballot on Nov. 2, and were rejected by voters.

Proposition 119 would have created the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program, also known as the LEAP Program, and would have increased the marijuana retail sales tax incrementally from 15% to 20% to partially fund the program. The measure was rejected by a vote of 54.5% against to 45.5% in favor.

Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids led the Yes on Prop 119 campaign. The committee reported raising $2.58 million in contributions. The top two donors were Gary Community Investment Company, which gave $1.97 million, and Ready Colorado, which gave $625,000. Three committees registered to oppose the initiative: No on Prop 119, Coloradans Against School Vouchers, and Cannabis Community for Fairness and Safety. Together, the committees reported raising $73,530 in contributions.

Michael Fields, executive director of Colorado Rising Action, sponsored Amendment 78 and Proposition 120. Amendment 78 was rejected by a vote of 56.5% against to 43.5% in favor. It would have transferred the power to appropriate custodial funds from the state treasurer to the state legislature. Examples of such funds include pension funds and court-approved settlement funds. The committee supporting the initiative raised $1.275 million, all given by Unite for Colorado, which describes itself as an “issue advocacy organization that believes in a smaller, more accountable government.” No committees registered to oppose the measure.

Proposition 120 was rejected by a vote of 57% against to 43% in favor. It would have reduced the residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and the non-residential property tax assessment rate from 29% to 26.4%. It would also have authorized the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) spending cap for five years, which it would otherwise be required to refund to taxpayers, to fund reimbursements to local government entities for lost revenue due to homestead exemptions given to qualifying seniors and disabled veterans. The committee supporting the measure raised $1.53 million from Unite for Colorado ($875,000), Colorado Rising State Action ($347,000), the Apartment Association of Metro Denver ($241,900), and United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc. ($52,000). No committees registered to oppose the measure.

In total, $3,329,466.92 was spent by the initiative campaigns on signature gathering for the three 2021 Colorado initiatives. Campaigns needed to submit 124,632 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The average cost-per-required-signature was $8.42.

Measures that can go on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd years are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR. The last time an initiative appeared on an odd-year ballot in Colorado was 2013. The measure, which was defeated, would have changed Colorado’s flat personal income tax rate to a graduated income rate with increased rates.



Jeffco County Education Association-backed slate wins election to Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado

The District 1, 2, and 5 seats on the Jeffco Public Schools school board in Colorado were up for general election on Nov. 2, 2021. Incumbents Brad Rupert (District 1), Susan Harmon (District 2), and Ron Mitchell (District 5) did not run for re-election. 

Danielle Varda defeated Jeffrey Wilhite in District 1. Paula Reed defeated David Johnson and Theresa Shelton in District 2. Mary Parker defeated Kathy Miks in District 5. Those victories maintained the board’s 4-1 majority of teachers’ union-backed members.

Varda, Reed, and Parker ran together as the Jeffco Kids Slate. The Jefferson County Education Association, the local teachers’ union, endorsed this slate. Another slate of candidates with no formal name, composed of Wilhite, Shelton, and Miks, was endorsed by the Jefferson County Republicans. According to Chalkbeat, the Jeffco Kids Slate prioritized staff hiring, teacher retention, and neighborhood schools, while their opponents ran on the issues of fiscal management and expanding school choice.



Colorado Supreme Court approves state’s new congressional map

On Nov. 1, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously approved the congressional redistricting plan that the state’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission approved on Sept. 28. The map will take effect for Colorado’s 2022 congressional elections.

The Court’s opinion said, “For the first time, the state’s congressional district map is not the product of politics or litigation; it is instead the product of public input, transparent deliberation, and compromise among twelve ordinary voters representing the diversity of our state. The Plan surely will not please everyone, but again, the question before us is not whether the Commission adopted a perfect redistricting plan or even the “best” of the proposed alternatives. The question is whether the Plan meets the requirements of article V, section 44.3. Based on our review, we conclude that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in applying the criteria in article V, section 44.3. We therefore approve the Plan and direct the Commission to file the Plan with the Secretary of State by Dec. 15, 2021.”

Eleven of the twelve commissioners approved the Congressional plan. Four unaffiliated members, four Republican members, and three of the four Democratic members voted in favor. The maps required approval from at least eight members, including two unaffiliated members. 

According to the Commission’s final report, “The populations of the districts in the Final Plan are as mathematically equal as possible, with a difference among districts of only one person.” The Commission’s final report also said it believed the plan complies with the federal Voting Rights Act, kept key communities of interest as intact as reasonably possible, preserved existing political subdivisions, was compact, “maximized the number of politically competitive districts to the extent possible,” and “was not drawn for the purpose of protecting any incumbent members of the House of Representatives, any declared candidates, or any political parties.”

The Denver Post’s Alex Burness said that the approved map “gives comfortable advantages to each of Colorado’s seven incumbent members of Congress — Democrats Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter and Republicans Ken Buck, Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn.” On the state’s new eighth district, Burness wrote, “Recent election results suggest the new 8th Congressional District will be a close race in 2022.” 

When the Commission approved the new congressional maps, Colorado Republican Party Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said, “We want to thank all twelve members of the Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission for their hard work and many sacrifices over the past few months. We are pleased that the process approved by Colorado voters was successful and that the commission was able to overwhelmingly agree on a competitive map. Colorado Republicans look forward to fighting for every vote in all 64 counties in 2022.”

Jennifer Parenti, Northern Colorado organizer for Colorado Common Cause, said, “Communities of color make up about 30% of the state’s population overall. But unfortunately, this proposed congressional map does not reflect that diversity. It, rather, splits our communities of color across multiple districts, while seemingly prioritizing municipal boundaries and protecting incumbents.”

Colorado was the seventh state to enact a congressional map after the 2020 census, making Congressional redistricting complete for 74 of the 435 seats (17.0%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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All candidates for Academy School District 20 school board in Colorado complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

All 10 candidates for three at-large seats on the Academy School District 20 school board in Colorado have completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. The survey asks candidates questions aimed to help voters learn why candidates are running and what they hope to achieve in office.

Each of the candidates running in the Nov. 2 nonpartisan election responded to questions such as, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?” and “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?” 

To read candidates’ responses to these and other questions, click here.

The Academy District 20 Board of Education consists of five voting members elected to four-year terms and one non-voting liaison to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Board members are elected at large. Elections are held on a staggered basis in November of odd-numbered years. Board members elected on Nov. 2 will begin their term on Jan. 1, 2022. One incumbent, Thomas LaValley, is running for re-election. 

Academy School District 20 is located in El Paso County, Colorado. The district contains 40 schools. 

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All candidates for Colorado Springs School District 11 school board complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

All nine candidates for four at-large seats on the Colorado Springs School District 11 school board have completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. The survey asks candidates questions aimed to help voters learn why candidates are running and what they hope to achieve in office.

Seven candidates are running in the Nov. 2 regular election for three at-large seats. The three individuals elected to these seats will serve four-year terms. Two candidates are running in a special election for one at-large seat. The winner of that election will serve a two-year term. Three incumbents are running for re-election.

Each of the candidates responded to questions such as, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?” and “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?” 

To read candidates’ responses to these and other questions, click here.

The Colorado Springs School District 11 school board consists of seven members elected to four-year terms. Elections are held on a staggered basis in November of odd-numbered years.

The district is located in El Paso County, Colorado, and contains 55 schools.

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Redistricting timeline updates: Colorado and Utah face deadlines, Pennsylvania holds public hearings

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting timeline updates from Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Colorado: After the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission approved state legislative map proposals to be sent to the Colorado Supreme Court for review on Oct. 11 (House map) and 12 (Senate map), the deadline for the court to either approve or send back the plans is Nov. 15.

Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) Redistricting Advisory Council continues to hold public hearings on redistricting. Upcoming dates and locations are listed below:

  1. 11:00 a.m. Oct. 27: Penn State Behrend, Pat Black III Conference Center,

Erie, PA

  1. 11:00 a.m. Oct. 29: Drexel University, Creese Student Center, Philadelphia, PA
  2. 11:00 a.m. Nov. 1: Penn State Main Campus, HUB-Robeson Center, University Park, PA
  3. 5:30 p.m. Nov. 3: Mansfield University, Manser Hall, Mansfield, PA

Utah: The Utah Independent Redistricting Commission has until Nov. 1 to submit its full report containing proposed congressional districts, Utah Senate and House districts, and school board districts to the legislature.



Denver voters to decide 13 ballot measures on Nov. 2, including 5 citizen initiatives

Thirteen ballot measures are on the ballot in Denver on Nov. 2, 2021. The Denver City Council referred eight of the measures to the ballot. The referrals include five bond measures totaling $450 million proposed by Mayor Michael Hancock. Initiative proponents put five measures on the ballot through signature petition drives. Two of the initiatives, Initiated Ordinances 303 and 304 were proposed by Garrett Flicker, chair of the Denver Republican Party.

Summaries of the 13 measures are below:

Initiated Ordinance 300: Increases the Denver retail marijuana sales tax (1.5% as of 2021) by $7 million annually to fund pandemic research, preparedness, and recovery

Initiated Ordinance 301: Requires voter approval for commercial or residential development on city parklands or lands under conservation easement

Initiated Ordinance 302: Amends the definition of “conservation easement” to apply only to those that have been approved by the Division of Conservation and that have received an income tax credit certificate; requires voter approval for residential or commercial construction on city parklands or property protected by a conservation easement with exceptions for limited construction on conservation easement properties

Initiated Ordinance 303: Bans camping on private property without written permission from the property owner, requires the city to enforce unauthorized camping, and allows the city to establish up to four authorized camping locations on public property with lighting, running water, and restroom facilities to support the homeless population of the city

Initiated Ordinance 304: Lowers the sales and use tax rate in Denver from 4.81% to 4.5% and limits the aggregate sales and use tax in Denver to 4.5%; requires the city to reduce sales and use taxes if Denver voters approve other tax increases to maintain the 4.5% cap

Referred Question 2A: Authorizes Denver to issue $104.04 million in bonds for repairs, improvements, and additions to the Denver Facilities System, such as at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Denver Zoo

Referred Question 2B: Authorizes Denver to issue $38.6 million in bonds for repairs, improvements, and additions to the Denver Housing and Sheltering System

Referred Question 2C: Authorizes Denver to issue $63.32 million in bonds for repairs, improvements, and additions (such as a new walkway in downtown Denver) to the Denver Transportation and Mobility System

Referred Question 2D: Authorizes $54.07 million in bonds for repairs, improvements, and additions to the Denver Parks and Recreation System

Referred Question 2E: Authorizes Denver to issue $190 million in bonds for repairs, improvements, and additions (such as a new multi-use arena for concerts and sporting events) to the National Western Campus Facilities System

Referred Question 2F: Repeals Ordinance No. 2020-0888, known as the Group Living Ordinance, which amended the Denver Zoning Code and regulations concerning residential care facilities, corrections facilities locations, and the number of unrelated adults who can live together in one house

Referred Question 2G: Transfers the power to appoint the Independent Monitor to The Office of the Independent Monitor, which is responsible for disciplinary investigations concerning the Denver police and sheriff’s departments, from the mayor to the Citizen Oversight Board

Referred Question 2H: Changes the odd-year general election date for Denver from the first Tuesday of May to the first Tuesday in April

Ballots are set to be mailed to Colorado voters beginning on Oct. 8. Ballots must be received by the Denver Elections Division by 7 p.m. on Election Day (Nov. 2). The Elections Division recommends mailing ballots out by Oct. 25 to ensure they will be received by the deadline or dropping them off at one of the 24-hour ballot drop boxes located throughout the city, which opened on Oct. 8. In-person polling places in Denver will begin opening on Oct. 18. Voters in line by 7 p.m. on election day will be able to vote.

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering all local ballot measures in California.

Denver voters will also see the three statewide initiatives that were certified for the Nov. 2 ballot.

  • Proposition 119 would create an out-of-school education program and increase the marijuana sales tax rate to partially fund the program.
  • Proposition 120 would reduce property tax rates and authorize the state to retain $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR spending cap for five years, which it would otherwise be required to refund to taxpayers.
  • Amendment 78 would transfer the power to appropriate custodial funds (state revenue not generated through taxes) from the state treasurer to the state legislature.

Measures that can go on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd years are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

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