By Eric Heinz
A ballot measure initiated by Denver City Council would make several changes to the elections process, including adjusting certain filing timelines, narrowing the focus of citizen-initiated ballot question, and more.
The ballot measure, noted as 2L, was examined by the Ballot Access Modernization working group that included Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez and District 4 Councilwoman Kendra Black as its co-chairs. It also included a number of former city clerks, members of nonprofit organizations, and college political science professors.
“It’s just, very simply, to improve some election processes and provide the most clear and concise information for voters,” Black said. Currently, there are no rules that restrict the breadth of a ballot measure question and the number of things it can ask.
The city’s ordinance would limit that to one subject that must be “clearly expressed in its title,” according to the measure the council approved in August. A single subject requirement for initiated ballot measures makes initiatives clear and easy to understand.
A single subject requirement is consistent with the Denver City Council single subject requirement for referred ballot measures.
“Multiple subjects can be problematic as they can be contradictory and confusing, can complicate fiscal analyses and can be used to bundle policies that may not garner majority support on their own,” Black said in an email to The G.E.S. Gazette.
Additionally, the measure would authorize the Denver City Clerk and Recorder’s Office, city council and Denver City Attorney’s office to review ballot titles to make sure they are “concise, accurate, impartial and easy to understand,” Black stated in the email. “ Unnecessary detail will be removed from the charter to allow details regarding ballot question wording to be addressed by city ordinance.”
A petition for an initiated ordinance would be allowed to be filed at any time, but if 2L passes, a petition for referendum would need to be filed within 90 days after final passage and publication of an ordinance. Another portion would change the timeline to fill a council vacancy through special election, requiring an election no less than 75 days and no more than 89 days (rather than 30 and 60 days, respectively) after a vacancy is determined.
Candidates would also have 75 days instead of 55 to gather 100 or more signatures of registered electors. This was recommended to align with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which is also why the city moved the election from May to April.
Other language in the ballot measure would clean up the city’s various numbers and lettering on ballot measures, as some of them have been used in past elections.