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Stories about Colorado

Signatures submitted for five more Colorado initiatives by August 3 deadline

Sponsors of five additional initiatives submitted signatures to the Secretary of State’s office by the August 3 deadline. To join the four citizen-initiated measures and three legislative referrals already certified for the November 2020 ballot, 126,632 valid signatures are required.

Sponsors of Initiative #257 submitted more than 200,000 signatures on July 28 to qualify a measure that would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to allow additional casino game types and increase the maximum single bet to any amount.

Michael Fields and Lindsey Sangers of Colorado Rising State Action submitted more than 196,000 signatures on July 31 to qualify Initiative #295 for the ballot. The measure would require voter approval of new state enterprises that are exempt from TABOR if the enterprise’s projected or actual revenue from fees and surcharges is greater than $100 million within its first five years. Michael Fields said, “Coloradans are sick of the Legislature using massive fees to get around a vote of the people, and the excitement around the ‘Vote on Fees’ initiative is proof of that.”

Also on Friday, Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, submitted around 197,000 signatures for Initiative #306. The initiative would decrease the state income tax rate from 4.64% to 4.55%. The Independence Institute said the measure was designed to “[Get] Colorado’s economy back to its former strength, by putting money back into the pockets of those who earned it.”

Colorado Families First, sponsors of Initiative #283 to create a paid medical and family leave program, reported delivering 205,443 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on July 31.

Fair Tax Colorado, sponsors of Initiative #271, announced in an email Friday that the initiative would not qualify for the ballot. It would have repealed the flat tax and create a graduated income tax rate.

Sponsors of Initiative #200 also submitted signatures. An estimate of how many signatures were submitted was unavailable as of August 4. The initiative concerns expungement of criminal records for low-level, non-violent offenses and using expungement fees for programs that fund scholarships, education, housing, crime reduction, mental health, and others.

Three citizen initiatives, one veto referendum, and three legislative referrals are already certified to appear on the ballot in November. From 2000 through 2018, an average of about nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years. A total of 108 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during the 20-year period from 1999 through 2019. Of the total, 42% (45 of 108) were approved, and 58% (63 of 108) were defeated.



Signatures submitted for Colorado initiative allowing voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to expand gaming types and increase max bets

Local Choice Colorado, sponsors of Initiative #257, reported submitting over 200,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on July 28. To qualify for the November ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are required by August 3. The secretary of state verifies signatures through a random sample of 5% of submitted signatures. If the sampling projects between 90% and 110% of required valid signatures, a full check of all signatures is required. If the sampling projects more than 110% of the required signatures, the initiative is certified. If less than 90%, the initiative fails.

The initiative would amend the state constitution to allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek to vote to allow additional game types and increase the maximum single bet to any amount. The measure would amend state statute to make conforming changes.

Local Choice Colorado, the sponsoring committee for Initiative #257, reported $1.7 million in contributions and $1.05 million in expenditures according to reports that covered information through June 24, 2020. Penn National Gaming, which owns or operates 41 gaming and racing properties in 19 states, gave $750,000. Monarch Casino & Resort, Inc., which operates Monarch Black Hawk Casino, gave $200,000.

Currently, authorized games include physical and electronic slot machines, craps, roulette, and poker and blackjack card games. Colorado voters approved legalized gambling in the cities of Black Hawk, Central, and Cripple Creek through Initiative 4 in 1990. Statewide voters approved the measure in a vote of 57.31% to 42.39%. Gaming in the cities became legal on October 1, 1991.

Currently, the maximum single bet is $100. The maximum single bet was raised to $100 in 2008 under Amendment 50. Prior to Amendment 50, the maximum single bet was $50. Amendment 50 also allowed Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek voters to add roulette and craps as authorized games. The first 80% of the new revenue attributed to the expansions and maximum bet increase was designed to go to the casinos. Of the remaining 20%, 78% was to be distributed for community college student financial aid and classroom instruction and 22% was designed to be distributed to the cities where limited gaming exists for gaming impacts.

This 2020 initiative would amend state statute to include programs to improve student retention and increase credential completion in the revenue distributions to community colleges.

As of July 28, 2020, seven statewide ballot measures were certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado:

1. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is on the ballot. States in the NPVIC agree to give their electoral votes for the presidential candidate that wins the most votes nationwide if the compact goes into effect.
2. Voters will decide on three citizen initiatives. One initiative would specify in the constitution that only U.S. citizens may vote. Similar measures are on the ballot in Alabama and Florida. One initiative would reintroduce gray wolves on public lands. One initiative would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks gestational age.

3. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs. The legislature also referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, giving the legislature more control of property tax rates.



Oil and gas ballot measures won’t appear on 2020 ballot in Colorado; signatures for other initiatives due on August 3

On Friday, July 24, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) announced that he would oppose ballot measures related to oil and gas in 2020 and 2022 on both sides to allow Senate Bill 181 of 2019 to take full effect. SB 181 was designed to make changes to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, create “additional public welfare protections,” and implement new rules related to oil and gas operations.

Multiple initiatives concerning oil and gas regulations were filed targeting the 2020 ballot.

Protect Colorado, proponents of initiatives #284, agreed to withdraw the measure following the compromise with Polis. The measure would have prohibited laws limiting use and installation of natural gas. Protect Colorado was also behind #304, which would have required fiscal impact statements to appear on the ballot for future initiatives. The group withdrew #304 as part of the compromise as well. On July 15, the group reported having collected around 140,000 signatures for each of the measures targeting the 2020 ballot; 124,632 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot.

Safe and Healthy Colorado proposed Initiative #174 for the 2020 ballot. It would have created setbacks for new oil, gas, and fracking projects. The campaign ceased signature gathering on July 2 after the Colorado Supreme Court blocked Polis’ executive order allowing remote signature gathering. Anne Lee Foster, who filed the initiative, said, “[Polis] is just speaking completely out of turn. We have absolutely not taken the option of a 2022 ballot initiative off the table.”

Initiative #312 was designed to prohibit the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from amending or repealing certain rules—including those regarding safety, aesthetics and noise control, reporting, and emissions. Proponents withdrew the measure.

Polis said, “In recent years, those conflicts [between the oil and gas industry and environmental groups] resulted in expensive, divisive fights at the ballot box and the courtroom, which did not satisfy homeowners, environmentalists, or the oil and gas industry. There are no real winners in these fights, and for most of this election season it looked like we might see another round of the oil and gas ballot wars in 2020. But today, I’m very proud to report that we have a path before us to make those divisive oil and gas ballot fights a thing of the past.”

Joe Salazar, executive director of Colorado Rising, the group that sponsored Proposition 112 of 2018, said, “I don’t know what [Polis] means by a truce. We are keeping everything on the table — we are not saying yes and we are not saying no.”

In 2018, Protect Colorado spent $26.4 million opposing Proposition 112, which would have mandated 2,500-foot setbacks for new oil, gas, and fracking projects from occupied buildings. Gov. Polis also opposed the measure. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Noble Engery Inc., PDC Energy, Colorado Petroleum Council, and Extraction Oil & Gas were the top donors to the opposition campaigns. It was defeated by a vote of 55% to 45%.

Protect Colorado also spent $10.8 million supporting Amendment 74 on the 2018 ballot, which would have required that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations. According to the executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, Chad Vorthmann, Amendment 74 was designed to “[protect] Colorado’s farmers and ranchers from extremist attempts to enforce random setback requirements for oil and natural gas development.”

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, and Conservation Colorado were top donors to the Amendment 74 opposition campaign. Amendment 74 was also defeated by a vote of 55% to 45%.

The Colorado Constitution requires petition circulators to gather signatures in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 17, 2020, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Executive Order D 2020 065, which authorized the Colorado Secretary of State to establish temporary rules allowing for ballot initiative petitions to be signed remotely through mail and email.

The Colorado Supreme Court rejected that provision of the order on July 1, holding that the governor cannot suspend constitutional requirements by executive order, and thereby requiring initiative proponents to gather signatures in person.

The executive order also suspended Colorado law that required signatures to be submitted within six months after ballot language is finalized, instead, allowing signatures to be submitted by the deadline set in the constitution, which is August 3, 2020.

To get an initiative on the November ballot, proponents need to collect 124,632 valid signatures. The remaining 13 initiatives that were cleared for signature gathering concern a variety of topics including elections, taxes, education, gambling, and paid family and medical leave.

As of July 24, 2020, seven statewide ballot measures were certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado:

  1. A veto referendum determining whether Colorado will join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is on the ballot. States in the NPVIC agree to give their electoral votes for the presidential candidate that wins the most votes nationwide if the compact goes into effect.
  2. Voters will decide on three citizen initiatives. One initiative would specify in the constitution that only U.S. citizens may vote. Similar measures are on the ballot in Alabama and Florida. One initiative would reintroduce gray wolves on public lands. One initiative would prohibit abortions after 22 weeks gestational age.
  3. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs. The legislature also referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, giving the legislature more control of property tax rates.


Voters approve Colorado sheriff recall

A recall election seeking to remove Lance FitzGerald from his position as Ouray County Sheriff in Colorado was approved by voters with 92.8% of the vote on June 30, 2020, according to unofficial election night results. Justin Perry (unaffiliated) defeated Ted Wolfe (R) in the election to replace FitzGerald. The election was conducted by mail-in ballot.

The recall effort began in January 2020. FitzGerald was targeted for recall after he was arrested on DUI allegations on November 27, 2019. The Ouray County Republican and Democratic parties created a recall committee together to lead the effort. The recall petition stated that county citizens did not have confidence that the sheriff could “uphold the duties and responsibilities of his elected position.” FitzGerald did not respond to the recall effort.

Recall supporters had 60 days to collect 768 signatures from eligible Ouray County voters. They submitted 1,082 petition signatures in March 2020. The county verified 914 of the signatures in April 2020, allowing the recall to move forward. FitzGerald had 15 days to file a protest against the recall petition. If he had, a hearing over the recall petition would have been held. Because he did not, the recall election was scheduled.

FitzGerald was sworn into office in January 2019. He ran as an unaffiliated candidate and defeated Republican Joel “BB” Burk by 11 votes.

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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Boebert wins Republican primary in CO-03, Tipton is fifth House incumbent to lose renomination this cycle

Lauren Boebert defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R) in the Republican primary for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. As of 9:15 p.m. Mountain Time on June 30, Boebert had received 54% of the vote to Tipton’s 46% with 85% of precincts reporting.

Tipton is the fifth member of the U.S. House to lose renomination this year, joining Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), Steve King (R-Iowa), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Denver Riggleman (R-Va.).

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Mitsch Bush wins Democratic nomination in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

Former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush defeated James Iacino, the executive chairman of the Seattle Fish Company, to win the Democratic nomination in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. As of 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time on June 30, Bush had received 61% of the vote to Iacino’s 39% with 69% of precincts reporting.

Both candidates said their backgrounds would make them the stronger contender in the November general election, with Bush pointing to her legislative record and Iacino to his business experience.



Hickenlooper defeats Romanoff in Colorado’s U.S. Senate primary

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in the November general election. As of 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time on June 30, Hickenlooper had received 60% of the vote to Romanoff’s 40% with 58% of precincts reporting.
The Colorado Sun described the race as mirroring splits within the national Democratic Party. Hickenlooper’s endorsers included the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, while Romanoff’s included the Metro Denver branch of Our Revolution.


Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah to hold congressional primaries June 30

The statewide primaries for Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah are on June 30, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed in March for Colorado and Utah and in April for Oklahoma.

One U.S. Senate seat and seven U.S. House seats are up for election in Colorado. A Democratic and Republican primary is being held for each seat. All eight incumbents are running for re-election, leaving no open seats. Seven incumbents are unopposed in their primaries; Rep. Scott Tipton (R-3) faces one challenger, Lauren Boebert. Entering the 2020 election, Colorado has one Democratic U.S. senator, one Republican U.S. senator, and four Democratic and three Republican U.S. representatives.

One U.S. Senate and five U.S. House seats are up for election in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, unopposed candidates automatically advance to the general election. The 3rd Congressional District has no primaries on the ballot, the 2nd Congressional District does not have a Democratic primary on the ballot, and the 1st Congressional District does not have a Republican primary on the ballot. All six incumbents are running for re-election, leaving no open seats. U.S. Representatives Kevin Hern (R-1) and Frank Lucas (R-3) faced no primary opposition and advanced automatically to the general election. Entering the 2020 election, Oklahoma has two Republican U.S. senators and one Democratic and four Republican U.S. representatives.

Four U.S. House seats are up for election in Utah. In Utah, the Democratic and Republican parties hold conventions to choose their Congressional candidates. If no convention candidates receive 60% of the vote or if additional candidates petition to get on the ballot, a primary is held. The 1st Congressional district is holding both Democratic and Republican primaries, and the 4th Congressional district is holding a Republican primary. The remaining districts’ major party candidates were decided at the convention. Three of the four incumbents are running for re-election. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-1) did not file for re-election as he is running for Lieutenant Governor of Utah. Entering the 2020 election, Utah has two Republican U.S. senators and one Democratic and three Republican U.S. representatives.

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020. If no candidates receive a majority of the vote in the Oklahoma primary, the two highest vote-getters will advance to a primary runoff on August 25, 2020. Colorado and Utah do not hold primary runoffs.

These states’ primaries are the 27th, 28th, and 29th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary is on July 7 in New Jersey.

Entering the 2020 election, the U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Thirty-three of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for regular election, and two seats are up for special election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House of Representatives has 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 U.S. House seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Three states to hold state executive and legislative primaries next Tuesday

Three states—Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah—are holding statewide primaries on June 30.

In Colorado, primaries are being held for three state board of education seats, three seats on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, 18 state Senate seats, and 65 state House seats.

In Oklahoma, primaries are being held for corporation commissioner, 11 state Senate seats, and 38 state House seats. Additionally, a special primary election is being held in District 28 of the Oklahoma State Senate. In May, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) signed legislation reinstating the absentee ballot notarization requirement struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on May 4, 2020. The legislation permits voters to submit copies of their identification in lieu of fulfilling the notarization requirement in the event of a state of emergency occurring within 45 days of an election. The legislation also specified that individuals experiencing symptoms indicative of COVID-19, and individuals classified as vulnerable to infection, could cast an absentee ballot under the ‘physical incapacitation’ eligibility category.

In Utah, primaries are being held for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, four state board of education seats, five state Senate seats, and 13 state House seats. In April 2020, Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed legislation canceling in-person election day voting, in-person early voting, and in-person voter registration for the June 30 primary election.

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Colorado sheriff recall on June 30 ballot

A recall election seeking to remove Lance FitzGerald from his position as the Ouray County Sheriff in Colorado is being held on June 30, 2020. Justin Perry (unaffiliated) and Ted Wolfe (R) are running to replace FitzGerald. The election is being conducted by mail-in ballot. Voters received their ballots by June 11 and must return them by 7 p.m. on June 30.

The recall effort began in January 2020. FitzGerald was targeted for recall after he was arrested on DUI allegations on November 27, 2019. The Ouray County Republican and Democratic parties created a recall committee together to lead the effort. The recall petition stated that citizens did not have confidence that the sheriff could “uphold the duties and responsibilities of his elected position.” FitzGerald did not respond to the recall effort.

FitzGerald was sworn into office in January 2019. He ran as an unaffiliated candidate and defeated a Republican, Joel “BB” Burk, by 11 votes.

Recall supporters had 60 days to collect 768 signatures from eligible Ouray County voters. They submitted 1,082 petition signatures in March 2020. The county verified 914 of the signatures in April 2020, allowing the recall to move forward. FitzGerald had 15 days to file a protest against the recall petition. If he had, a hearing over the recall petition would have been held. Because he did not, the recall election was scheduled.

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:



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