Denver, CO

Denver ballot question squashes grassroots activism, residents say

David Heitz

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City and County of Denver

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Residents told the Denver City Council Monday that one of the body’s proposed election policies being put to voters for approval squashes grassroots activism.

The City Council voted Monday to put on the November ballot a question that would change requirements for putting initiatives on the ballot. Currently about 9,000 signatures are required, according to a Power Point presentation at the July 26 Finance and Governance Committee. The new requirement would mandate that 2 percent of electors from each district sign petitions, if voters approve the change.

That means activists looking to put initiatives on the ballot would have to collect 180 signatures from every district, for a total of at least 1,800 signatures. The other 7,200 signatures could come from any district.

The City Council still must vote on the measure once more before it goes on the ballot. Councilmember Candi CdeBaca voted no and urged residents to voice opposition.

Signature threshold harder to reach

Activist Brian Loma said the change if approved “catastrophically changes the way we are going to have to collect signatures.”

Loma and others who have worked on grassroots campaigns, such as Ean Tafoya, said they likely will have to pay canvassers to collect signatures. Some small grassroots movements don’t have the budget for that, they said.

Owen Perkins called the proposed change “an anti-democracy bill.” He said it favors big money and curtails access to small groups.

Perkins told the council the change gives any one district veto power over putting something on the ballot. Tafoya said the ballot modernization subcommittee, of which he is a member, was supposed to make participating in elections easier for people.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

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