The world has been focused on the race between Trump and Clinton. It is understandable given the fact that this election will impact this country and the world more than any other that we have seen in the last century. But what has been lost in all the coverage, is that the people’s right to self-determination, the right to freely choose their very destiny, the right to self govern, is under attack.
State legislators have historically loathed the people’s ability in the 23 states with the initiative process to use it to enact reforms lawmakers simply don’t want to address or reforms that hold them accountable. For this reason, lawmakers have focused extraordinary resources and time trying to limit the people’s right to use the initiative process. Colorado is ground zero this election cycle for these efforts and Amendment 71 is the Trojan Horse. But this isn’t a new trend in Colorado - more taxpayer dollars have been spent in Colorado to defend legislative attempts to unconstitutionally restrict the people’s right to the initiative process than any other state – and in every case the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down Colorado’s attempts to restrict the process.
Much has been written regarding the reasons to adopt Amendment 71, but as with many political campaigns this election cycle, truth has not been consulted when these claims have been made. The claim by lawmakers that Colorado has the easiest initiative process in the country, and thus the reason for Amendment 71, is simply untrue. In fact, given the difficulty of getting issues on the ballot because of the state’s ability to forestall initiatives via the draconian rules on what is contained in an initiative and what language will appear on the ballot, Colorado is ranked among those who study the process as being near the bottom of states with a useable initiative process.
Also, requiring a distribution requirement as draconian as what Amendment 71 proposes, one that will be the strictest in the country as well as in any other country with the initiative process, will simply shut down the people’s ability to be a check on the very special interests pushing for this change.
Amendment 71 also sets forth an arbitrarily defined 55% vote requirement for the adoption of any constitutional amendment which is tantamount to the abdication of the principles that this country was founded upon – majority rule. But what is more concerning is that the 55% requirement would not apply to amendments repealing provisions in the Constitution. This means that any previous amendment that has been adopted by the people, or any subsequent amendment that is adopted by more than a 55% margin, can simply be overturned by a simple majority vote. This, once again, will make Colorado the only place in the world with such a requirement. It is odd that you would require a supermajority to add constitutional protections but a simple majority to remove those protections. Shouldn’t it be more difficult to take away constitutional protections?
If there is genuine interest by the legislature in ensuring that the will of the people is voiced equally around the state, and that 55% of the people support reforms that have tremendous impact on them, then why not require the same requirements for the election of any statewide office holder - the people who truly impact the people’s lives every single day. Or require the same requirement when removing amendments from the Constitution.
If Amendment 71 passes, coupled with the legislature’s propensity to overturn reforms adopted via initiative statute – the highest in the country - Coloradans will lack any ability to impact the very laws that govern them. Then lawmakers in every state with the initiative process will then undoubtedly use 71 as a template to take away the voter’s rights in their state.
There is little doubt that after this election, regardless of who wins, that our entire electoral process needs to be reviewed and reforms considered. However, those reforms must come from the people since the duopoly of power shared by the Republican and Democratic Parties won’t likely support systemic change since the reforms needed will dilute their stranglehold on our very rights. That is why defeating assaults on the people’s ability to enact change, like Amendment 71, is so critical. The people’s right to self-determination, their right to bring change when government has chosen to be more like a Russian satellite than a state based on the fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is at stake.
I know we have all been wrapped up in the craziness of the battle for the Presidency. But we all need to take a step back and remember that there IS more than Trump and Clinton on the ballot. If lawmakers can put in place the restrictions that are being proposed in Amendment 71, there is little doubt that the people will have no outlet for their rage and anger with government. And that is not an America I wish to see.