With a half dozen referred and initiated measures already on the statewide ballot for November and more than 20 proposals in the signature-gathering phase, voters may be asked this year to weigh in on topics as diverse as oil and gas development, wolves, abortion and nicotine taxes.
Luckily, Coloradans can get their information from a reliable source.
The ballot information booklet, also referred to as the Blue Book, is assembled through a multistep process that the Colorado Legislative Council laid out in a memo released on Tuesday. When staff draft an analysis of each measure, they solicit comments and interviews from the initiative’s proponents, potential opponents, subject-matter experts and other entities the initiative may affect.
The first draft that arises from those comments attempts to fairly and impartially describe each proposal’s purpose, as well as the effects of a yes or no vote. Over the summer, the Legislative Council staff will write up to three drafts of the analysis. Anyone can proactively comment on the work, but all input will be part of the public record.
The feedback period on the first draft lasts for roughly one week, and then one or two rounds of revisions take place. The writers of the analysis try to avoid jargon, slogans or language best left to the campaign. There is also a fiscal impact statement to estimate how a measure will alter government revenues and expenses, or how it will affect taxpayers if applicable.
Before the final draft of the ballot information book is published, there is a legally-required meeting for the Legislative Council staff and research director to ask questions. However, there are typically no queries posed, and the meeting is not for public comment. Then in late August or early September, the Legislative Council committee, which consists of 18 legislators, holds a final hearing to take comment about the fairness or accuracy of the analysis. Changing the language requires a two-thirds vote.
Finally, the state prints and mails booklets to voters, which is scheduled to happen on Oct. 2 this year. Legislative Council staff have tabulated that since 1880, when the General Assembly referred its first measure to voters, there have been 479 proposals that were citizen-initiated, legislatively referred or that were subject to a referendum.
The most common issue before voters has been legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, comprising nearly 40% of measures. Historically, ballot measures have failed more often than they have succeeded. The largest single category of proposals, at 15% of the total, pertain to taxation.