Referred Question 2L: The one looking to “modernize” election procedures

Should citizen-led ballot initiatives stick to one subject and have a clear title? Should some election timelines increase?
2 min. read
Candi CdeBaca teaches first-time voter MaLinda Medina how to cast a ballot as she canvasses in Five Points on election day, June 4, 2019.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The Ballot Access Modernization Committee was convened by Clerk and Recorder Paul D. López and Councilmember Kendra Black with the goal of updating Denver's election policies and procedures.

The group, composed of other city officials and community leaders, came up with several suggestions to alter and "modernize" the municipal code, including timeline changes and mandatory clarifications.

City Council decided to place the formal suggestions on this year's ballot.

Here's the language you'll see on the ballot:

Shall the Charter of the City and County of Denver be amended to modernize procedures for access to the ballot in city-wide elections by: requiring initiatives to contain only one subject; updating deadlines for candidate nominations to match mail-in ballot procedures; requiring the clerk and recorder, in consultation with city council staff and the city attorney, to set the title of a proposed initiative, referendum, or recall; allowing public comment on proposed titles for an initiative; and removing unnecessary detail in the charter regarding the wording of ballot questions and allowing ballot question wording to be addressed by city ordinance in lieu of the Charter?

How would it work?

One of the major components of the measure would require citizen-led ballot initiatives to have only one subject and the subject must be clear within the title.

Black told the G.E.S. Gazette that multiple subjects "can be contradictory and confusing." Simplifying the initiative would make it easier for voters to understand what they're saying "yes" or "no" to.

If passed, the measure would also allow council, the Clerk and Recorder's Office and Denver City Attorney's office to review ballot titles to ensure the language is concise. The citizen petitioners can appeal if they don't agree on the title.

Besides the subject and titles, the measure would allow petitioners to file an initiated ordinance at any time, candidates would have more time to gather signatures and the measure would increase the timeframe of filling in a city council seat through a special election.

Who's for it and who's against it?

There's no organized groups actively advocating on either side.

In their 2022 Ballot Guide, the Downtown Denver Partnership voiced their support of the measure, stating the measure would "work to ensure that the issues that end up on the ballot are clear and implementable."

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