04 December 2018

What Does Colorado Get Right In Electoral And Legislativel Politics?

Good Colorado Electoral And Legislative Politics Practices.

1.  No one who has completed their felony criminal sentence, or who is serving a misdemeanor criminal sentence, is disenfranchised.

2. Voter ID need not be presented to vote, at least, if you receive a mail-in ballot.

3. Eligible voters may register to vote right up until election day.

4. Every voter gets a mail-in ballot. This is particularly helpful because Colorado usually has quite long ballots.

5. There are numerous conveniently located, postage free, drop boxes and vote centers in Colorado, but ballots must be received by election day, so vote counting is not unduly delayed.

6. Mail-in ballots have a tracking code that can be used to confirm that election administration officials have received your ballot.

7. Advocates for political parties, candidates and issues can get regularly updated lists of who has voted and who has not to assist them in getting out the vote once ballots have been distributed.

8. Campaign finance disclosures are required quite comprehensively in non-federal races and have data that can be accessed and searched over the Internet.

9. Colorado uses paper ballots that can be recounted or audited, by hand, if necessary.

10. You have a roughly two week window in which to vote, and a statutory right to time off to cast a ballot in person if you need to do so.

11. Numerous salient ballot issues encourage high turnout even if a particular voter's candidate races are not close. The government's to which the ballot initiatives pertain circulate "blue books" with detailed information including fiscal impact estimates and pros and cons submitted by advocates of, and opponents of, the measures. Proposed constitutional amendments, charter amendments, statutes, and ordinances can be placed on the ballot with citizen initiatives that aren't so onerous that there aren't many on the ballot every year. Governments must also refer any of their own proposed constitutional amendments, chart amendments, tax increases, spending limit increases, and issuances of government debt backed by taxpayer funds to voters.

12. Reasonable term limits (12 years in any given legislative position, 8 years for most executive branch posts) are an important fact that prevents incumbency advantages from being too great and contribute strongly to Colorado have one of the highest percentages of female legislators in the nation.

13. If there is a vacancy in the state legislature, the vacancy is filled by a committee of that member's political party. So, parties have an incentive to police misconduct and scandals in their own party to have strong incumbents for the next election, while scandal is not a tool that is useful to change the partisan power balance put in place by the voters.

14. Going forward, Congressional redistricting and state legislative redistricting will be conducted by a bipartisan commission with meaningful guidelines intended to reduce gerrymandering.

15. Strict ethics rules prohibit public officials including elected officials at every level from receiving gifts, and impose civil fines that make sanctioning people for violations easier without the full range of pro-defendant protections that apply to criminal prosecutions, and ethics violations can be reported by private citizens without being screened by a partisan elected official. The Board that administers the ethics law is independent of the partisan elected Secretary of State's office.

16. Colorado requires a 55% majority, rather than a bare majority of the votes cast, to adopt proposed constitutional amendments.

17. While Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights is nothing to write home about and ill designed, the requirement the new taxes and increased spending receive voter approval effectively defuses "tax and spend" attacks on Democratic political candidates and liberal candidates generally in non-partisan races, at every level of government, since any proposed tax increases must be voter approved.

18. Colorado uses Congressional district boundaries for the state board of education and the CU-Regents, reducing the number of districts that have to be drawn when redistricting comes around.

19. While it is very difficult to recall candidates in statewide offices, it isn't impossible, and it can be fairly easy to do in local governments following low turnout local elections, for example, to municipal, county and school board posts.

20. Voters in the Denver metro area elect a non-partisan Regional Transportation District board. Likewise, District attorneys are elected from regional judicial districts rather than from every county.

21. A non-partisan legislative branch agency determines the estimated fiscal impact of all proposed legislation and helps legislators (most of whom are non-lawyers) with the drafting of bills to be introduced.

22. Many special districts (e.g. the Denver Water Board and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District) have appointed board of directors rather than elected boards of directors, shortening the ballot in the case of races where candidates could be hard to evaluate. Their taxing and borrowing decisions, however, must still receive voter approval.

23. The Governor's power to pardon is not significantly limited.

24. A judges in the state except municipal judges and judges on the Denver County Court are appointed by the Governor from three top applicants selected on a merit basis by a blue ribbon commission.

25. There is a mandatory retirement age for state judges.

26. Municipal courts have very limited jurisdiction and there are only two specialized courts that are not divisions of another court (the Denver Probate Court and the Denver Juvenile Court).

Additional Things That Denver Does Right

1. Denver candidate elections are conducted in May of odd numbered years, so that these races aren't drowned out by general election race media coverage and voter attention.

2. School board elections in Denver and every other school district in the state are conducted in odd numbered years in November on a staggered non-partisan basis where the races are not competing with other races for media coverage and voter attention.

3. All Denver candidate races are non-partisan, which is particularly appropriate in a city with one dominant party, because it gives everyone in the city a say on who is elected.

4. In Denver, in a single member electoral districts, it takes a majority of the vote to be elected in the first round. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote there is a runoff election about a month later. This prevents minor candidates from acting as spoilers for candidates they are most similar to. This is not yet the law in state elections, however.

5. Denver has a consolidated city and county government that reduces jurisdictional issues and makes for simpler elections and clearer accountability. The City and County government has a city council with a mix of single member and at large city council seats, a Mayor, an Auditor, an a Clerk and Recorder who are elected. It also, within the state election system has a partisan elected District Attorney who prosecutes crimes.  All of these posts have term limits.

6. Denver does not elect its coroner, engineer, assessor, treasurer, surveyor or sheriff, as other counties in Colorado do.

7. Denver's county court and municipal court are consolidated and have a single set of judges appointed by the Mayor from a list of three top candidates selected based on merit by a blue ribbon committee.

(Moderate) Colorado Process Changes Still Called For.

Majority Voting and Runoff Election Requirements

1. Candidates in all federal, state and local single candidate districts should have to face a runoff election in between the top two candidates if a majority of voters do not support a candidate in the first round.

Bipartisan Election Administration

2. The election administration functions of the Secretary of State should be run by a bipartisan appointed state board of elections rather than a partisan elected official, i.e. Secretary of State, and the non-electoral functions of the Secretary of State should be that responsibility of an appointed official.

3. The election administration functions of the county clerk and recorder (a partisan elected official) should be run by a bipartisan appointed county board of elections, and the other responsibilities of the county clerk and recorder should be carried out by an appointed official.

Shortening The Ballot

4. The state treasurer should be appointed rather than elected.

5. The coroner's office should be a state office, rather than a county office, and should be an appointed position.

6. County treasurers, county assessors, county engineers, and county surveyors should be appointed offices rather than partisan elected officials, and the size of a county commission should be increased from three to five, at least, in all reasonably high population counties.

7. The CU-Regents should either be appointed, or elected by constituencies of the University such as alumni.

8. The state board of education should be appointed.

9. Judicial retention elections for trial judges should be placed on the ballot only when a judicial performance review committee has not unanimously recommended the judge's retention, no retention election petition (which a fairly modest number of required signatures) is filed, and no board of county commissioners (or legislative body of a city and county government, in a county over which the judge had jurisdiction requests it. Judicial retention elections for appellate judges should be placed on the ballot only when a judicial performance committee has not unanimously recommended the judge's retention, no retention election petition (with a fairly modest number of required signatures) is filed, and neither house of the state general assembly requests it. In other words, only actually controversial judicial retention elections should be presented to voters.

10. The shortening the ballot reforms would leave at the following partisan elected official in the state for each voter (excluding non-partisan special districts and municipal offices): a Governor-Lieutenant Governor ticket, an Attorney-General, a State Senator, a State Representative, a District Attorney, county commissioners, and a county sheriff. It would also significantly reduce the number of judicial retention elections on the ballot.

Court Structure

11. Transfer all municipal court jurisdiction to county courts and eliminate mayoral appointment of county court judges in Denver, so that there would be no separate municipal courts.

12. Discontinue the Denver Juvenile Court and Denver Probate Court and replace them with divisions within District Court.

13. Require all judges to be lawyers.

14. Transfer a significant share of cases currently handled by C.A.R. 21 to the Court of Appeals.

15. Publish and allow attorneys' to cite to all court opinions, rather than having many unpublished court decisions.


neo said...

how is life in colorado, as someone who lived in illinois in wisconsin.

Dave Barnes said...


Ballot issues should have fewer words and be clearer with less legalese.

andrew said...

@Dave Barnes Great point. The national weather service made the transition away from all caps just a few years ago. I remember the AP news wire being in all caps when I was a radio news reporter in college and it was awful.

@neo Life in Colorado is truly awesome and superior to anywhere in Wisconsin and anywhere by Chicago in Illinois. And, Denver gives Chicago a run for its money and is better in many respects. If you want to live the good life, you should move here.

neo said...

andrew thanks

how's property taxes and property value? what kind of house can i buy say for $240k?

i know boulder is very expensive.

i didn't grow up in chicago proper but northern suburb

the area i grew up in the north shore of chicago is one of the most competitive ivy league bound school system in the nation and new trier was rated one of the very best public schools.

university of chicago and northwestern are highly respected but the weather sucks if you hate cold and wind as i do.

i'm thinking florida tbh