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The amendment would make anti-fracking measures much harder to pass, activists said. (Photo: John Duffy/flickr/cc)

Colorado Voters Urged to Reject Measure That Would 'Shut Down Democracy'

Amendment 71 would 'transfer power away from voters, making the state more vulnerable to powerful the expense of Colorado citizens'

Nadia Prupis

Supporters of animals, the climate, and democracy itself are urging Colorado voters to reject an upcoming ballot measure backed by special interest groups that would stiffen requirements for amending the state's constitution—or, put another way, a ballot measure to end (some) ballot measures.

As the Denver Post's former editorial page editor Vincent Carroll explains, Amendment 71 would raise the percentage of votes required to pass a constitutional change from a majority to 55 percent and require a percentage of those signatures to be gathered in each of the state's 35 senate districts.

Together, those provisions have the potential to "throttle one of the seminal reforms of the progressive era that empowered individual citizens," and would have "doomed a number of the best-known initiatives of the past half-century and deterred who knows how many other campaigns from even gearing up," he writes.

The measure would also allow the ridding of existing constitutional amendments through a simple majority, creating a double-standard for the requirements to pass new rules and those to repeal them.

Carroll's warning was echoed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which came out against the ballot measure on Tuesday, stating that it "aims to transfer power away from voters, making the state more vulnerable to powerful interests, including agribusiness, at the expense of Colorado citizens."

HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle said, "Amendment 71 is an attempt by special interests and their political allies to make it practically impossible for citizen organizations to qualify and pass constitutional amendments by ballot initiative. The only entities who will be able to use the process will be corporations and billionaires with virtually limitless resources."
"This is a power grab masquerading as a good government measure."
—Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society

"True citizen-backed organizations will be cut out of the process, recognizing that the requirements stipulated in Amendment 71 are so onerous that the process becomes unusable," he said. "Why is it fair to elect politicians by a simple majority or even a plurality but require a supermajority standard for certain ballot questions? This is a power grab masquerading as a good government measure. If you care about opposing animal cruelty and supporting voting rights, vote 'no' on Amendment 71."

And as both the HSUS and InsideClimate News pointed out, the measure is backed and funded in large part by the oil and gas industry and other corporate interests. That includes the pro-fossil fuel group Protecting Colorado's Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, which donated $2,000,000 to pass the measure, and the Colorado Petroleum Council, part of the American Petroleum Institute, which has spent $250,000.

Kaye Fissinger, president of the grassroots anti-fracking group Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont, told InsideClimate News, "Basically what oil and gas is trying to do is shut down any future initiatives on oil and gas," adding that the measure "would pretty much shut down citizen-driven democracy in this state."

Jessica Goad, spokesperson for Conservation Colorado, added, "We believe this amendment would stack the deck for special interests and allow them and the political elite to be gatekeepers of public policy. It's not just about oil and gas. It's about mining, or transportation. It would make it so that special interests with unlimited funding can change policy far more easily than grassroots citizens groups can do."

Voters will decide on whether to pass or reject Amendment 71 on November 8.

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