Monday, Aug. 6, is the deadline for any citizen or private groups to turn in signatures to qualify a ballot issue on this November’s statewide ballot. To date, only one ballot issue, Amendment 64 which would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana, has qualified for the Colorado ballot.
A few more ballot issues may qualify, including this year’s rendition of the Personhood Amendment, but it is likely that Colorado voters will be facing the least amount of ballot issues on a general election ballot in many years.
As recently as 2006, Colorado citizens were voting on at least 14 ballot issues and amendments in November. Colorado was among the longest ballots in the country with only California and Oregon voters facing as many issues as Coloradans.
But as we approach Election Day 2012 in Colorado, our previously ballot issue-happy citizenry seems to have either become satisfied with the current form of our state’s Constitution, or have simply given up trying to change it themselves.
Or perhaps there are a few other factors at play here.
As we look to try to explain where all of the ballot issues have gone, I think we can point to a few factors that may contribute to the missing amendments.
First, the lack of a state wide candidate race, with the exception of the Presidential race, has taken a great deal of local wind out of the sails of the 2012 election. When the Governor’s office or a U.S. Senate seat is on the line, various factions who wish to bring out certain “bases” of voters to vote for a candidate, create ballot issues that motivate them to vote. It could be a social conservative issue to bring out GOP voters or a progressive issue to bring out the Democratic base.
But without a statewide race, the strategy to bring out that base becomes a far less significant priority. It’s a costly strategy, so you can see why it’s not used if there is no major statewide race at stake.
That brings us to our second reason why there are not more ballot issues on this year’s ballot, cost. The price of putting an issue on the statewide ballot is a pricy move. Some larger campaigns can spend up to $2 million dollars, and success is far from guaranteed. That is because fighting a well funded ballot issue campaign is far easier to do with less money. And encouraging voters to say no to almost any proposal is much easier than getting them to say yes.
Cost can be a major deterrent, but the difficulty in getting voters to say yes brings us to another reason why there are not more ballot issues on this year’s ballot. Colorado voters have been in a “no” mood for the last few election cycles. In 2008, with a variety of different issues on the ballot, the only one that passed was the issue to allow increased gambling in Blackhawk, with increased proceeds going to community colleges. Every other ballot issue lost that year.
It is very likely that potential ballot issue campaigns thought better of the idea when they looked at the overall negative mood of Colorado voters lately.
Whatever the real reasons are behind the missing ballot issues, the effect could have a dramatic affect on Colorado’s election. It may be in the form of certain base voters staying home, or simply lowering general interest in the election. But with Colorado’s ballot issue campaigns staying home, don’t be surprised if some voters may follow suit.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.