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A voter drops off his ballot at the dropbox outside the Denver Elections Division on Bannock Street on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

Citizen engagement is crucial in sustaining America's experiment in representative democracy, and voting in an election is not just any ritual. Encapsulated in that act is often the purest expression of a people's ability to choose their leaders, exactly the kind of freedom denied to so many in other parts of the world.

As a public service, we compiled this guide to help voters understand the ballot initiatives they will be asked to vote on this fall. The analysis comes via the Colorado General Assembly Legislative Council's State Ballot Information Booklet.

We hope that you find this guide informative and useful. If there are any errors, please don't hesitate contact editors Luige del Puerto at [email protected] and Pat Poblete at [email protected]

Amendment D - New 23rd Judicial District Judges 

A “yes” vote directs the governor to reassign judges from the existing 18th Judicial District to the new 23rd Judicial District by Nov. 30, 2024. 

Arguments in favor:  

  • Establishes a smooth transition for the new judicial district and helps avoid the cost of potential litigation
  • Because it is unclear if current state law will ensure the proper seating of judges in the new district, the amendment provides a definitive legal mechanism for the transition
  • Will prevent the invalidation of rulings resulting from allegations of improper seating of judges, as well as offset costs and address other logistical concerns
  • Requiring the governor to assign judges to the new district in a timely and efficient way also prevents disruptions and delays in casework and court proceedings 

“Yes” campaign website: No formal committee

A “no” vote means that there could be uncertainty in Colorado law about assignment of judges in the new 23rd Judicial District and that continuity of court functions could be disrupted. 

Arguments against:  

  • Amendment D is not the only way to assign judges to the 23rd Judicial District
  • The Colorado Constitution and state statute allow for judges to be appointed through a vacancy process or to serve in other districts under certain circumstances 

“No” campaign website: No formal committee

Threshold: Passage of a constitutional amendment requires at least 55% of the votes 

 

Amendment E - Extend Homestead Exemption to Gold Star Spouses 

A “yes” vote expands the existing homestead exemption for disabled veterans, which reduces the property taxes paid by a homeowner, to include surviving spouses of either a military member who died in the line of duty or a veteran who died as a result of a service-related injury or disease. 

Arguments in favor:  

  • Losing a spouse can lead to unmet financial needs, and the tax exemption in Amendment E helps Gold Star spouses offset expenses of the family home
  • Colorado currently allows spouses of 100% disabled veterans to keep the homestead exemption when that veteran dies, but provides no exemption if the spouse is killed while serving in the military 

“Yes” campaign website: No formal committee

A “no” vote means the existing homestead exemption is not expanded to include surviving spouses of either a military member who died as a result who died in the line of duty or a veteran who died as a result of a service-related injury or disease. 

Arguments against:  

  • Amendment E reduces taxes only for Gold Star spouses who are financially able to own homes. Gold Star spouses who cannot afford to own a home do not benefit from this measure
  • The intent of the current homestead exemption for 100% permanently disabled veterans is to help address the employment and income limitations of their disability and Gold Star spouses may not have the same employment challenges as permanently disabled veterans 

“No” campaign website: No formal committee

Threshold: Passage of a constitutional amendment requires at least 55% of the votes 

Amendment F - Changes to Charitable Gaming Operations 

A “yes” vote reduces from five to three the minimum number of years a nonprofit organization must operate in Colorado in order to apply for a bingo-raffle license and authorizes the state legislature to establish a different requirement beginning in 2025. In addition, a “yes” vote allows, but does not require, bingo-raffle workers to be paid. Wages are capped at minimum wage through June 30, 2024, after which wages are not limited. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • Bingo-raffle gaming is an important tool that nonprofit organizations use to raise funds for their programs
  • Expanding licenses to nonprofit organizations that have been in existence for a fewer number of years provides more organizations with this fundraising opportunity
  • The amendment may allow nonprofit organizations to raise additional money by operating more games more often because payment of a wage will likely incentivize their members to work bingo-raffle games

“Yes” campaign website: www.cobingoassn.com

A “no” vote maintains the current requirement that a nonprofit organization must operate in Colorado for five years before applying for a bingo-raffle license, and that bingo-raffle workers must be unpaid volunteers. 

Arguments against: 

  • Allowing bingo-raffle workers to receive a wage to manage or operate bingo-raffle games potentially reduces the amount of money nonprofit organizations are able to dedicate to their core mission
  • Permitting less-established nonprofit organizations to operate bingo-raffle games in Colorado will likely increase the number of organizations raising funds in this manner, further decreasing the total amount of funds available for each organization 

“No” campaign website: Path to Zero, an issue committee backed by the Independence Institute which supports Propositions 121 and 124 through 126, is registered with the Colorado Secretary of State's TRACER system as opposed to Amendment F, as well as Propositions 123, GG and FF. It has yet to report any monetary contributions and does not yet have a website.

Threshold: Passage of a constitutional amendment requires at least 55% of the votes 

 

Proposition FF - Healthy School Meals for All 

A “yes” vote creates a program to provide access to free meals to all public school students in Colorado and offers grants schools related to the provision of school meals. It also increases taxes for households with over $300,000 in federal adjusted gross income by limiting state income tax deductions. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • Research shows that children experiencing hunger have lower grades than their peers, and are more likely to struggle with behavioral problems and experience emotional, mental and physical health issues
  • Providing free meals to all students helps families at a time when many are facing higher costs of living
  • The current income threshold for free meals does not capture all students, who may face food insecurity, and even if a student can afford to bring or pay for a meal, the measure will take a daily financial concern off of families’ plates
  • The measure removes a source of shame and embarrassment for students who receive free meals 

“Yes” campaign website: www.yesonff.org 

A “no” vote means that the current method of funding school meals, which provides free meals to children from households with incomes below certain thresholds, will remain unchanged, and there will be no change to tax law. 

Arguments against: 

  • The measure raises taxes on some households at a time when inflation is high and the cost of living is increasing
  • The measure requires ongoing state funding, resources and oversight for a program that is not needed by all students
  • Colorado schools are underfunded, and it would be better to give local school districts new funding to use in a way that best serves their students, such as by increasing teacher salaries or providing additional educational materials and opportunities 

“No” campaign website: The Common Sense Institute's analysis is available here: www.commonsenseinstituteco.org. Path to Zero is also opposed. 

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition GG - Add Tax Information Table to Petitions and Ballots 

“yes” vote requires a tax information table be included on petitions and ballots for any citizen-initiated measure that changes the individual income tax rate. The table must list the average change in taxes owed for taxpayers in specified income categories. 

Arguments in favor include: 

  • Allows voters to easily see the impact of income tax rate changes on individuals of different income categories when signing a petition and casting a vote
  • Voters are presented the information at the moment that they are making their decision about a measure and will not need to seek out additional information to understand how the measure will affect their own taxes and those of other taxpayers 

“Yes” campaign website: www.yesongg.com

A “no” vote keeps petitions and ballots in their current format. 

Arguments against include: 

  • Proposition GG adds unnecessary complexity and costs to statewide printed ballots, and duplicates information that is already provided to voters in the ballot information booklet
  • The ballot will become even longer, more expensive to produce and more complicated than it is now, especially in years when there are multiple tax measures 

“No” campaign website: Path to Zero is opposed.

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition 121 - State Income Tax Rate Reduction 

A “yes” vote reduces the state income tax rate to 4.40% for tax year 2022 and future years. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • The state government currently collects more taxes than it uses for the programs it funds, and, in fact, more tax money than it is legally allowed to spend
  • By permanently lowering the tax rate, Proposition 121 cuts out the inefficiency of sending money to the government that just gets returned, while providing taxpayers with tax relief during future economic downturns
  • The measure is a modest change that, according to the state’s own forecasts, won’t change the amount of money available for state spending for at least the next three years
  • The state legislature just approved the largest budget in state history and the budget is only expected to grow, even with the tax decrease under Proposition 121 

“Yes” campaign website: The Independence Institute's defense of the measure is available here: www.i2i.org

A “no” vote keeps the state income tax rate unchanged at 4.55%. 

Arguments against: 

  • Most of the measure’s benefits will go to a small population of very wealthy taxpayers, including corporations
  • About 75% of taxpayers will receive a tax cut of less than $63 per year, while those with incomes over $1 million, representing less than 1% of taxpayers, will receive nearly half of the total tax savings from the measure, and, on average, are expected to save almost $7,000 per year
  • Corporations outside of Colorado will keep more money, which they may choose to invest elsewhere or pay as profits to out-of-state shareholders 

“No” campaign website: Keeping Colorado Great is registered with the Colorado Secretary of State's TRACER system in opposition to Proposition 121 although it has yet to report any contributions. Great Education Colorado's criticism of the idea is available here: https://www.greateducation.org/ 

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition 122 - Access to Natural Psychedelic Substances 

A “yes” vote requires the state to establish a regulated system for accessing psychedelic mushrooms and, if approved by the regulating state agency, additional plant-based psychedelic substances. It also decriminalizes the possession and use of psychedelic mushrooms and certain plant-based psychedelic substances in Colorado law for individuals aged 21 and over. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • Studies have shown that psychedelic mushrooms and other plant-based psychedelic substances, combined with counseling, may provide effective treatment for severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • The FDA has specifically found psychedelic mushrooms may offer substantial improvement in treating depression more successfully than existing therapies and increasing access to psychedelic mushrooms and other plant-based psychedelic substances may help people who are struggling to find effective mental health treatment
  • Putting people in the criminal justice system for using naturally occurring substances that have potential mental health benefits does not benefit society and costs taxpayers money
  • Studies have shown that psychedelic mushrooms are not addictive and that long-term adverse health impacts are rare, unlike tobacco use, which is legal 

“Yes” campaign website: www.naturalmedicinecolorado.org 

A “no” vote means the possession and use of psychedelic mushrooms and other plant-based psychedelic substances will remain illegal under state law. 

Arguments against: 

  • There are currently no approved therapies that use psychedelic mushrooms or other plant-based psychedelic substances, and the effects of them can vary widely from person to person, depending on the dose, frequency of use and type of substance
  • Proposing a regulatory framework for the use of these substances suggests that they offer legitimate treatment before they have received federal approval, potentially putting people’s health and public safety at risk
  • Under the guise of health care, Proposition 122 legalizes drugs that have been illegal for over 50 years and forces local communities to allow use of these substances
  • It also provides broad protections for criminals by allowing convictions to be wiped from their records
  • By decriminalizing personal use, the black market for these drugs may expand and provide access to youth or expose people to psychedelic substances that are tainted with other drugs 

“No” campaign website: www.protectingcoloradokids.com

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition 123 - Dedicate Revenue for Affordable Housing Programs 

A “yes” vote sets aside money for new affordable housing programs and exempts this money from the state’s revenue limit. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • Creates a source of funds to tackle housing issues without raising tax rates, and gives local communities the flexibility to respond to their specific needs
  • Colorado’s housing prices make it too hard for many households to afford rent or to buy their own home
  • Creating more homes will allow residents and essential workers to remain in their communities 

“Yes” campaign website: www.yeson123co.com

A “no” vote means that state revenue will continue to be spent on priorities as determined by the state legislature or returned to taxpayers, as under current law. 

Arguments against: 

  • Pumping money into the market may distort it further, and the real beneficiaries will be landlords and housing developers 
  • The state already provides resources to support affordable housing, including over $1 billion in federal stimulus funds allocated in recent years
  • This measure diverts money away from the state’s budgeting process — money that goes toward priorities as determined by the legislature through deliberation and consultation with stakeholders and constituents — and instead sets aside money in a fund with fixed uses 

“No” campaign website: Path to Zero is opposed 

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition 124 - Increase Allowable Liquor Store Locations 

A “yes” vote allows retail liquor stores to apply for and, if approved, increase the number of locations over time, with no limit on the number of locations after 2037. 

Arguments in favor:  

  • Brings parity to retail liquor stores that have been disadvantaged by the limited number of allowed locations 
  • Addresses a long-term competitive disadvantage for retail liquor stores relative to large grocery store chains 

“Yes” campaign website: www.voteyes124.com. Also backed by Path to Zero.

A “no” vote retains current law that limits retail liquor stores to a total of three locations in the state through 2026, four locations thereafter. 

Arguments against: 

  • Creates a disadvantage for small, locally owned liquor stores that may not have the capacity or desire to expand, and instead benefits large retail liquor store chains that have more resources
  • Current law is designed to ensure that neighborhood liquor stores can continue to compete with other retail liquor stores
  • Many of these small businesses are owned by minorities and women, who may lose customers as a result of increased competition from large retail liquor store chains 

“No” campaign website: www.keepingcoloradolocal.com 

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition 125 - Allow Grocery and Convenience Stores to Sell Wine 

A “yes” vote allows licensed grocery and convenience stores that currently sell beer to also sell wine. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • Consumers want the convenience of buying wine with groceries
  • Stores provide a safe and well-regulated environment to ensure responsible alcohol sales 

“Yes” campaign website: The issue committee Wine in Grocery Stores backs both 125 and 126, as does Path to Zero.

A “no” vote means licensed grocery and convenience stores may continue selling beer, but not wine. 

Arguments against: 

  • The measure creates a disadvantage for small, locally owned liquor stores, and instead benefits large national grocery and convenience store chains
  • The automatic license conversion will more than double the number of stores where wine can be sold, without any community input or state or local government review 

“No” campaign website: www.keepingcoloradolocal.com 

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

 

Proposition 126 - Third-Party Delivery of Alcohol Beverages 

A “yes” vote allows third-party companies to deliver alcohol from grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, bars, restaurants and other liquor-licensed businesses, and makes takeout and delivery of alcohol from bars and restaurants permanently available. 

Arguments in favor: 

  • The delivery of groceries and restaurant meals has become a convenience that Coloradans expect and continue to use
  • Allowing third-party delivery services to deliver alcohol will let many more stores and restaurants utilize delivery without having to devote the resources to meet burdensome requirements in current law
  • Coloradans will have more options available when supporting stores and restaurants from the comfort of home 

“Yes” campaign website: www.fairdeliverycolorado.org. Also backed by Path to Zero.

A “no” vote maintains current law, which requires businesses to use their own employees to deliver alcohol. Bars and restaurants may offer takeout and delivery of alcohol until July 2025. 

Arguments against: 

  • The measure expands alcohol delivery options without the safeguards available in a physical store or restaurant that ensure alcohol is not sold to minors 
  • Currently, retail liquor licensees make deliveries using their own trained employees and are liable for any violation while under this measure, retailers are not liable once alcohol leaves their premises, and enforcement of third-party alcohol delivery laws is expected to be more difficult as a result 

“No” campaign website: www.keepingcoloradolocal.com

Threshold: Passage of a citizen-initiated measure requires a simple majority vote 

Editor's note: The Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly compiles the State Ballot Information Booklet.

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