The progressive’s guide to the Colorado 2020 ballot

By Ms. Mayhem Staff

Oct 17, 2020 | Editorials | 3 comments

//The Colorado Capitol. Photo from Shuttershock. 

*Editor’s Notes: First responders to the Northern Colorado wildfires—CalWood, Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Williams Fork fires—or those displaced by the fires can receive and return an emergency replacement ballot electronically, according to the Colorado Secretary of State office in a news release on Oct. 23. Voters should contact their county clerk.

Replacement ballots can also be requested from any Voter Service and Polling Center in the voter’s county. Requests for a ballot to be mailed to them can be made by Oct. 26. Voters displaced outside of their county can receive a replacement statewide ballot at any VSPC in the state. Any ballot voted through a dropbox will be mailed to the appropriate county.

The language in the description of the Gallagher Amendment has been changed since publishing to better clarify the potential effects of the amendment. 

WHEW. Hey Denver residents! This year’s ballot is a doozie.

We recognize we’re a little late to the game here with putting out a voting guide. However, ours comes with a twist. We spoke with several progressive activists and organizations throughout Colorado for their recommendations on how to vote on each amendment, initiative and measure. This is not an endorsement by Ms. Mayhem, rather we’re informing you on how to vote on measures should you wish to vote progressively.

Your ballot should now be in your hands, but if it hasn’t made its way to you yet, you can track it here. Oct. 26 is the LAST DAY you can mail in your ballot.

If you’d rather drop your ballot off or vote in-person, you can find the closest drop box or election site here. If you aren’t registered to vote yet, you have until Oct. 26 to register by mail or online. But, Colorado is one of the states where you can register up to and even on Election Day! After Oct. 26, you’ll have to register in-person at an election site. You have until 7 p.m. Nov. 3 to do so.

State Ballot

Amendment B: Repeal the Gallagher Amendment

Explained- The Gallagher Amendment is responsible for reducing local government funding thanks to the way it calculates residential and property tax rates as well as its interaction with TABOR. Amendment B would repeal the Gallagher amendment and restore revenue to schools and local governments. Also, next year there would be a significant cut in residential property tax rates thanks to the formula the amendment uses to calculate property taxes. Schools stand to lose close to $500 million if the Gallagher amendment is not repealed.

Recommendation- The Alliance Center says vote YES. “Voting yes to repeal the Gallagher Amendment would freeze residential tax assessment rates at 7.15%, and any future change to this would require voter approval. We think you should vote for the Gallagher Amendment’s repeal because it would empower rural Coloradan communities by making it easier for them to fund their essential services. When essential services are cut, our least fortunate neighbors are always impacted first. Ensuring equity in our communities is critical to Colorado’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and future growth.”

Amendment C: Conduct of Charitable Gaming

Explained- If passed, this amendment would change the way nonprofit organizations in Colorado raise money through bingo and raffles. It would reduce the number of years a nonprofit needs to operate in the state before applying for a bingo-raffle license from five years to three years. It would also allow charities to hire people from outside the organization to run the games. Right now, operators have to be volunteers from within. 

Recommendation- Leaders of Color Collaborative is NEUTRAL on the amendment. “This would allow newer nonprofits to raise money through gaming, but paying for the operations could make them more like for-profit gambling rather than charitable fundraising.”

Amendment 76: Citizenship Qualification of Voters

Explained- Changes the Colorado Constitution from saying that “every citizen” may vote to say that “only citizens” may vote.

Recommendation- Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition says vote NO. “This ballot measure is being brought forth by a conservative group in Florida. We think it’s an anti-immigrant scare tactic—it is already the law that only citizens can vote. It would also remove the rights of Coloradans who are 17 during the primary election but will turn 18 by the general election to participate in primaries. This ballot measure is an anti-immigrant answer to a question nobody asked. It also disenfranchises young voters.”

Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition says vote NO. “CIRC is strongly opposed to Amendment 76, an anti-immigrant measure that aims to solve a problem that simply does not exist. Not only does this amendment open the door for discrimination based on perceived immigration status, it also puts Coloradans at risk for subsequent voter suppression measures to implement this amendment. Amendment 76 is backed by big donors outside of Colorado, creating this measure that would disenfranchise 17-year-old voters from voting in Colorado primaries.”

Amendment 77: Local Voter Approval of Casino Bet Limits and Games in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek

Explained- Allows voters in Colorado’s three gambling cities to decide what kind of games and what kind of betting limits they want in their casinos. Basically, sets local control of Casinos. Currently, there’s a statewide requirement that dictates what sort of games and betting limits Casinos can have. Revenue also gets redistributed to help community colleges have programs that improve student retention

Recommendation- One Colorado says vote YES. “We are supportive of amendment 77 because the distribution of increased gaming tax revenue would directly benefit community colleges to improve student retention and credential completion. Education on any level is a gateway to improved economic outcomes for members of the LGBTQ community and our broader society.”

Proposition EE: Taxes on Nicotine Products

Explained- Taxes vaping products. Gradually increases cigarette and tobacco taxes over the next few years. Colorado has no tax on vaping products currently and among the lowest cigarette and tobacco products in the country. The money generated would go to K-12 education, rural schools, and tobacco products. A smaller amount would go to general state spending. Breakdown shifts to preschool programs in 2023. Eventually, funding for healthcare would be included as well.

Recommendation- ProgressNow is NEUTRAL on the proposition. “While our schools and roads need the revenue, we are troubled by yet another regressive tax imposed on low-income Coloradans.”

Leaders of Color Collaborative says vote NO. “While Colorado needs greater education and health funding, this tax would be disproportionately paid by working-class people who are often more targeted by tobacco companies.”

Proposition 113: Adopt Agreement to Elect US President by National Popular Vote

Explained- Affirms the decision Colorado lawmakers made in 2019 to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. States agree to bind their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote if they join the compact. The compact only takes effect if enough states join the compact and bind a majority of the electors, ensuring that the compact can determine the election by popular vote. States bind their electors to the winner of the popular vote even if the losing candidate carries the state the compact is in.

Recommendation- ACLU says vote YES. “Awarding our electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states will give us a direct voice over the selection of the U.S. President. Every vote will count equally, and the person with the most votes will win every time.”

Proposition 114: Reintroduction and Management of Gray Wolves

Explained- Directs Parks and Wildlife to reintroduce gray wolves to the Western Slope by the end of 2023.

Recommendation- The Alliance Center says vote YES. “Proposition 114 creates a commission tasked with planning and implementing the reintroduction of gray wolves to Colorado. Gray wolves have been absent from Colorado since the 1940s and were classified as a federally endangered species in 1978. In 1996, gray wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park with great success. This measure would ensure that the reintroduction does not negatively impact the ecosystem by requiring the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to plan the reintroduction with public input, transparency, and compensation methods for lost livestock. We recommend you vote yes since apex predators are essential to the health of ecosystems. Gray wolves’ reintroduction would be a win for conservation and ecosystem health in Colorado.”

Proposition 115: Prohibit Abortions After 22 Weeks

Explained- This would ban abortions after 22 weeks except in cases in which the pregnant woman’s life is directly threatened by the pregnancy.

Recommendation- Planned Parenthood says vote NO. “There are no exceptions for rape, risks to the woman’s health, or even a lethal fetal diagnosis. Women already way too many barriers and obstacles to accessing health care. We should not be making it more difficult for women to access the care they need. Every pregnancy is unique and no one can know the individual life circumstances of each and every woman. This ban doesn’t allow room for any complexity. It is an intentionally confusing initiative being pushed by many of the same politicians and groups who have tried to ban abortion outright in Colorado.”

Proposition 116: State Income Tax Rate Reduction

Explanation- This proposition would reduce state income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%.

Recommendation- The Alliance Center says vote NO. “By voting no, you will be maintaining the current income tax rate of 4.63 percent. The coronavirus pandemic has already created a multi-billion dollar deficit for the state, and losing revenue from income tax would hurt the state’s ability to fund essential services like K-12 education. We think you should vote no because this would further increase the state’s deficit and make it more challenging for Colorado to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. To realize the full potential of Colorado’s equitable recovery, the state cannot afford to lose any more funding.”

Proposition 117: Voter Approval for Certain New State Enterprises

Explained- Essentially corrects an oversight that the anti-tax proponents overlooked when they passed TABOR in 1992. After TABOR passed, the state got creative and started raising fees and fines to help make up any shortfalls the state encountered. This new bill corrects for that oversight. Prop 117 requires the state to bring new fees before voters anytime they want to fund new “enterprises.” Currently, lawmakers can create fees and enterprises without voter approval. So, in other words, it broadens the power voters already have through TABOR to include fees as well. Right now, fees are used to cover government expenses that arent met by existing taxes, such as schools and roads.

Recommendation- The Alliance Center says vote NO. “By voting no, you are supporting the state legislature’s ability to create and secure new enterprises. Enterprises are government-owned businesses that provide a service for a fee or surcharge paid by the service recipient, in contrast to an agency that receives funding from tax revenue. We think you should vote against this new regulation because it is an expansion of TABOR and ultimately hurts our state’s economy. Enterprises are a sound method of revenue generation for the state.”

Proposition 118: Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

Explained- This proposition would give Colorado workers the ability to take at least 12 weeks of paid leave from their jobs for family medical purposes. Funded by fees paid by workers and employers. Currently, there is no family leave in Colorado. FMLA, the federal version of this, guarantees that some workers can take unpaid leave for 12 weeks.

Recommendation- Planned Parenthood says vote YES. “This ballot measure would create a state Paid Family and Medical Leave program, very similar to the proposed legislation that has failed at the capitol several times. It allows for leave for worker illness or injury, bonding with a child, caring for a family member (including ‘non-biological’ family), addressing military family needs, and for ‘safe time’ after domestic or sexual violence.”

Denver Ballot

2A: Climate Funding

Explained- This measure would increase the sales tax by 0.25% that raises $40 million for Climate Change Action.

Recommendation- The Alliance Center says vote YES. “By voting yes, you would be supporting the funding of projects that make Denver’s homes, buildings and streets more energy efficient. One of these proposals would retrofit buildings to emit fewer greenhouse gases and incentivize clean energy sources like solar panels. This would also fund the transition of car-first roads to multimodal streets that prioritize a carbon-free fleet of buses, bikes, electric cars, and electric bikes. The sales tax would not be imposed on essential products that are already subject to a lower tax rate. We think that Denver residents should support this sales tax because it prioritizes and funds projects that will be dedicated to the community with “a strong lens toward equity, race, and social justice,” which is directly in line with The Alliance Center’s vision.”

2B: Funding to Address Homelessness

Explained- This measure would increase the sales tax by 0.25% that raises $40 million to fund housing, shelter or services for the homeless. It would fix, improve, or create shelters and pay for new or improved services to help the homeless. It would also pay for new or renovated housing and provide rental assistance.

Recommendation- Denver Homeless Out Loud says vote YES (tentatively). “We as DHOL are taking a tentative supportive stance on 2B. We agree it is better to pass than not pass…but also have concerns about how the funding will be used. We recommend that amendments be made to ensure the funding goes primarily toward housing, not shelters. We also recommend that more direct say of directly affected people be added to the processes for decisions on how the funds are allocated. More funds are better than nothing, but we need these funds to go primarily for housing and people who are homeless need a say in the details of how the funds get spent. We also need to be real about how small these funds are compared to the full need.

2C: Professional Services

Explained- This measure would give Denver City Council the authority to procure professional services without the mayor’s approval. It basically just lets city council hire experts to help them do the stuff they have to do under the city charter.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction among community-minded groups with Denver’s strong mayor system. Strengthening City Council will help community groups have more input in local politics. This particular measure lets Denver City Council hire professional experts to help it do its work without having to get the Mayor’s approval first. It also means city council can hire experts independent of any potential mayoral influence.”

2D: Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Advisory Board

Explained- This Measure would create a 19 member board to advise the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. The mayor would appoint six members and city council 13 members. Members would be required to represent a variety of interests, backgrounds and geographic areas of the city. The measure, if passed, would provide communities the opportunity to give feedback and oversight of transportation and infrastructure issues. It would have the power to significantly impact the department’s annual budget, work plans and priorities.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “Strengthening Denver City Council will help community groups have more input in local politics. This particular measure creates a 19 member board of transportation that is skewed in favor of city council. The board’s members must come from a variety of backgrounds, ensuring that various types of communities can make their voices heard whenever the manager of DOTI is working on transportation policy. It also gives the proposed board the power to have a say in budget priorities and help build the best transportation and infrastructure systems that would help the community they are intended for.

2E: Council Approve Mayoral Appointments

Explained- This measure would give city council authority to consent to mayoral appointments to 14 city departments, including Transportation and Infrastructure, Parks and Recreation, Finance, Safety, Sheriff, Police, Fire Department and City Attorney. Appointments could be approved or blocked with a majority vote.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “Out of all the moves to strengthen city council this year, this one’s probably the biggest. It gives Denver City Council the power to consent to mayoral appointments. This is a considerable power since it removes the mayor’s ability to singularly select people who will carry out their vision, and their vision only. City council would be able to influence the selection of people whose decisions have major consequences for underserved and marginalized communities.”

2F: Removing Outdated Language from the Charter Regarding Council Meetings

Explained- This measure would remove the language from the charter saying Denver City Council will meet Mondays except when provided by ordinance. It would also allow council meetings to be called by the mayor and any three members of city council with 24 hours written notice. The language that is removed will be moved into ordinances instead.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “This measure would make it easier for Denver City Council to call meetings. We the public will still be given 24 hours notice of when meetings are to occur. No one is formally, or informally, opposed to this measure.”

2G: Expand Council Budgeting Authority

Explained- This measure would allow Denver City Council to make its own recommendation on how money the city has earmarked in the budget should be used. They could also determine where non-earmarked money goes. It would essentially allow them to move money around but with restrictions. It could allow city council to use the money to propose solutions that address unforeseen issues that pop up throughout the year.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “By giving Denver City Council its own partial power of the purse, it lets them decide how some of the money Denver takes in should be spent to better take care of the communities they’re responsible for. The measure doesn’t interfere with the established budget the mayor creates every year, one that they can already revise multiple times a year as needed. Since City Council is an instrument of power that the people are meant to wield, it also means that the people have a more direct say over how extra money can be spent. This is especially important for marginalized communities that are usually shut out of the decision-making process due to structural factors.”

2H: Municipal Broadband

Explained- Gives the City and County of Denver the right to provide high-speed internet, telecom services and cable television to city residents. However, this would not create a city-sponsored internet provider. Senate Bill-152 prohibits cities from providing telecom and internet services unless a local election is first held to allow local government to even discuss the option. So basically, it removes the roadblock that SB-152 poses to the city providing telecom services.

Recommendation- One Colorado says vote YES. “We are supportive of Denver ballot measure 2H because internet access has always been and continues to be an equality issue. The current pandemic has truly highlighted the need that every Denver resident should have equal access to the internet regardless of their economic status and we know that unfortunately, members of the LGBTQ community and particularly transgender Coloradans continue to live at or below the poverty line at a much higher rate than the general public.”

2I: Clerk and Recorder Appointees

Explained- This measure would allow the Clerk and Recorder to appoint four at-will employees and a deputy. It would also remove the Director of Elections from the city charter, though that piece is not a part of the ballot question.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote NO. “With all the skullduggery around elections this year around the country, it might not be the greatest idea to remove the Director of Elections from the charter. The position was created after the mighty big election mess of 2006 and since then, Colorado has been one of the best states to vote in. To be fair, the current Clerk and Recorder seems to be engaging in good faith around this measure. Paul López said he has no desire to remove the position and this measure might make it easier to staff in the future. However, the risk that a future, less well-intentioned Clerk and Recorder could remove the position in an effort at voter suppression is a cause for concern. We sympathize with the Clerk and Recorder’s desire to clear bureaucratic logjams so his office can run smoother, but the Director of Elections should not be removed from the charter.”

2J: Create a Permit System for Pit Bulls

Explained- This measure would create a permit system for owners to register their Pit Bull breeds as pets in Denver. Owners would have to register the dog with the city and pay a fee. They would also have to provide the city with an emergency contact, a description of the dog, and proof of vaccination. The dog must not have any violations for 36 months before it can be registered with the city like other dog breeds. It would also allow Pit Bulls to be adopted so long as owners chip the animals and comply with additional requirements set by Denver Animal Protection.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “There’s no such thing as a bad dog, only a bad owner.”

4A: Denver Public Schools Mill Levy

Explained- This measure would raise property taxes to $32 million in 2021 in order to increase school funding. The funding would go toward mental health and COVID-19 resources in schools. It would also increase minimum wage for support staff and add cost of living funds to pay educators a living wage.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “With the extraordinary circumstances faced by schoolchildren across the state, mental health is of the utmost concern. Children should only have to worry about assignment deadlines, and this ballot initiative will help schools provide mental health resources to students that may be struggling through these times. It also pays for increased resources to monitor and fight COVID-19. Also, the people who serve our children deserve some security in these uncertain times, and the pay raises for the difficult jobs they undertake will help put food on their table.”

4B: Denver Public School Bond

Explained- This measure would increase Denver Public School debt to $795 Million to pay for capital improvements. This would extend taxes from prior election years to pay the debt. The funding would go toward maintenance and renovation of school buildings, including cooling systems in classrooms that lack air conditioning. Funding would also go to new schools and more classrooms to address overcrowding and reduce class size. Other things: New computers, upgrades science and computer labs, modernization of classroom technology, improvement of security at school entryways. It would also improve and expand early childhood learning environments.

Recommendation- Based on progressive policy, Ms. Mayhem recommends vote YES. “Colorado ranks among the lowest of states to invest in education around the country. Our students deserve a comfortable and safe place to learn. Reducing class sizes is crucial to ensuring no student is forgotten, which is especially important among underserved communities. The money provided by this measure would go toward ensuring that our students have a modern educational experience and help Denver students succeed.”


  1. Alex

    Incredibly helpful in breaking down the ballot! Made my voting experience feel much more informed and less intimidating

  2. Phil

    Thank you so much! This was basically the only site I could find with progressive advice on the local ballot measures

  3. Rita

    Your site was a great help in breaking down all the measures on this year’s ballot. Thank you for the information and helping me make my voting choices


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