Letter: Vote ‘no’ on 71

Dear Editor: Having grown up in a town with 1,500 people, in a rural area where I had 48 classmates in high school, I know something about rural vs. metro area issues. Now I’m a lawyer in Denver who started The Judicial Integrity Project because my profession isn’t behaving as it should. Then along comes Amendment 71. 71 would drastically change the citizen initiative process. But the legislature is actually responsible for two-thirds of the amendments to our state constitution; not citizens. Only 48 citizen initiatives have resulted in constitutional amendments. That’s because it’s incredibly difficult for citizens to get a measure on the ballot. When taking into consideration the 6-month time frame for obtaining signatures, Colorado’s constitution is actually the 6th toughest for citizens to amend. Right now, you can put an issue on the ballot by getting signatures from anywhere in Colorado. But if 71 passes, you’ll have to get 2 percent of registered voters in Denver and Boulder to sign your petition along with every other state senate district. So 71 actually makes you dependent on Denver and Boulder to get on the ballot. 71 doesn’t just require signatures from every state senate district, it requires signatures from 2 percent of all registered voters of every state senate district. One state senate district could hold the entire state hostage to a policy that has broad-based support. 71’s proponents spent almost a million dollars in an attempt to satisfy their own proposed signature requirement. They failed, proving 71 would effectively kill the right of Coloradans to petition to get on the ballot. Because constitutional amendments are subject to a statewide vote, everyone already has a voice. Majority rule is the cornerstone of democracy. Yet 71 would abandon majority rule and require support from a 55 percent supermajority to put an amendment in the constitution. It’s a radical change. Did you know that giving women the right to vote did not receive support from 55 percent of voters? And with lower numbers of people in rural areas, why on earth would you want to abandon majority rule? 71’s proponents have attempted to exploit rural vs. metro area animosities to their benefit. But the political influence of every common Coloradan will be reduced if 71 is adopted, no matter where you live. But legislators? Their political influence goes up. That’s because you’d be completely beholden to them to amend the constitution. The citizen initiative exists for a reason: To ensure we can govern ourselves when those in power refuse to do as the citizens desire. For instance, our legislative and executive branches have failed to keep sufficient checks and balances on our judicial branch for many years. That’s why I started The Judicial Integrity Project. Did you realize that you don’t know whether any of the judges on your ballot have been disciplined? Not even the judicial performance commissions that are responsible for making a recommendation to you on how to vote on judges know whether the judges have been disciplined. Why? Because, unlike most other states, our state constitution requires judicial discipline proceedings to be kept confidential. We’ve tried to amend the constitution, but it’s very difficult to make the ballot. We’re based in Denver, but we can’t just walk down the 16th Street Mall and get all the necessary signatures. If that were the case, you would have already seen The Honest Judge Amendment on the ballot. With 71, only the elite and wealthy—such as former governors and former pro quarterbacks—could access the citizen initiative. That’s why they like 71. The problem in Colorado is that the signature requirement for statutory amendments and constitutional amendments is the same. We can encourage statutory amendments, as opposed to constitutional amendments, by reducing the signature requirement for statutory amendments and making it difficult for the legislature to tinker with such amendments. That’s a better alternative. 71 is an anti-citizen initiative. That means we’re all in this together, no matter whether we live in a rural or metro area. From Meeker to Lamar – we’re all citizens who currently have the fundamental right to govern ourselves. Protect our fundamental right. Vote NO on Amendment 71.
Chris Forsyth

The Judicial Integrity Project

Wheat Ridge, Colo.