3 Reasons to Vote No on Colorado’s Amendment 71

by Rachel Rye Butler

October 28, 2016

Oil and gas companies want a monopoly on democracy, so they created Colorado's Amendment 71.

Colorado Initiative 71 Message

© Bob Pearson / Greenpeace

Colorado’s ballot initiative process is responsible for important policy changes in the state’s history, including prohibiting underground nuclear tests and making voter registration easier. But on November 8, wealthy special interests hope to amend the state’s constitution to make it much, much harder to pass ballot initiatives in the future.

Amendment 71, dubbed“Raise the Bar” by its proponents, is the perfect example of big money attempting to rig Colorado’s political system in its favor by creating significant hurdles to participate in the state’s ballot initiative process.

If you’re a Colorado voter, here are three reasons to vote no on Amendment 71 this November.

1. Amendment 71 stacks the deck for special interests and takes power away from the people of Colorado.

Get ready, because if 71 passes, citizens’ access to democracy is about to get a whole lot harder. That’s because:

  • Anyone attempting to put an initiative on the ballot would have to collect valid signatures from 2 percent of voters in every single one of Colorado’s 35 State Senate districts to qualify for the ballot.
  • A tiny portion of the state — less than 3 percent of the population — could block any proposed amendment from making it onto the ballot, no matter how significant a majority of Colorado voters support it.
  • It would take millions of dollars to get onto the ballot. That means the oil and gas industry won’t have a hard time doing it, but citizen groups and organizations will.   

The Denver Postwhich has come out in opposition to 71, estimates that it takes about $1 million for an initiative to make it on the Colorado ballot using today’s rules. Through various changes to the 100 year-old ballot initiative process in Colorado, 71 would increase that amount significantly, creating a barrier to entry that keeps most Coloradans shut out of the process.  

2. Amendment 71 is supported by oil, gas, and other wealthy industries, and opposed by pretty much everyone else.

Amendment 71 has received the majority of its funding — more than $4.2 million — from the oil and gas industry. That’s more than six times the amount raised by the opponents.

To make matters worse, the language in the amendment was actually written by Vital for Colorado, a front group for the oil and gas industry. This group has ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Noble Energy, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association — all groups that work to silence people and put oil and gas interests first.

On the other hand, the heavily out-fundraised “No on 71” coalition is funded solely by public interest groups, non-profit organizations, and individuals. 

The list of opponents to Amendment 71 reads like a phone directory of Colorado organizations, including everyone from environmentalists and anti-fracking groups, organized labor, good government groups, civil rights organizations, women’s health groups, and even the Humane Society.  

Political parties that often find themselves on different sides of an issue — like the Denver County Democratic Party, the Denver County Republican Party, the Arapahoe Tea Party, and the Colorado Libertarian Party — all oppose the amendment.

With these odd bedfellows uniting, it’s not hard to see that stacking the deck against everyday Coloradans is a bad move for Colorado’s democracy.

3. Amendment 71 is a threat to democracy — and it will impact real people.

Here’s one example of the impact of Amendment 71.

This past summer, thousands of Coloradans helped support two initiatives that would have given communities more control over fracking and set a minimum distance between fracking sites and homes and schools. Unfortunately, the oil and gas industry spent nearly $15 million to stop these initiatives from making the ballot — and they succeeded.

The thing is, Coloradans got very close to “keeping it in the ground” with these important steps to protect communities’ health and safety, and now, the fracking industry wants to make sure that never happens again.

Enter Amendment 71.

If Amendment 71 passes, it would become nearly impossible for Coloradans to change the state for the better through ballot initiative process — including making it much more difficult for Coloradans to get the chance to vote no on fracking in the future.

Gathering enough signatures to get an amendment on the ballot can already cost millions of dollars no matter how many people support it, and it would become harder and even more expensive under these new requirements if Amendment 71 passes.

The oil and gas industry and other special interests are trying to stack the deck in their favor in Colorado, making it vastly more difficult for communities to have a voice. But if we know anything about the Rocky Mountain State, Coloradans won’t easily be silenced.

Help stop the takeover of democracy in Colorado: share this post with your friends in Colorado and don’t forget to vote.

Rachel Rye Butler

By Rachel Rye Butler

Rachel Rye Butler leads the Democracy Campaign at Greenpeace USA. She writes frequently about people power, voting rights, and money in politics.

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