Jul 26, 2022 - News

Colorado voters face huge questions in 2022 election

Illustration of a very long ballot coming out of a voting booth.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

This fall, Colorado voters will once again carry the burden of answering major questions about the state's future.

What's happening: At least seven questions are confirmed for the November ballot. A handful of others β€” involving education, wine sales and more β€” could also qualify before the Aug. 8 deadline.

  • Five of the measures were sent to voters by state lawmakers, according to an independent tracker, including one that would trim existing tax breaks to pay for a school meals program.
  • The latest addition is a proposal asking voters to legalize possession (but not the retail sale) of psychedelic mushrooms.
  • The other voter-generated referendum would lower the state's income tax from 4.55% to 4.4%.

Why it matters: Colorado's penchant for direct democracy is not new, but the ballot measure process is increasingly weaponized by advocates who don't get their way in the traditional lawmaking process.

  • It also forces voters to decide on complex new laws with limited information.

What they're saying: Since 2014, when power brokers cut a deal to keep an oil and gas measure off the ballot, "we just continue to see that interplay between initiatives and legislation," said Sarah Mercer, a lobbyist who tracks ballot questions.

  • Taylor West, an advocate for the "natural medicines" legalization initiative, says "voters are really eager to see action … in a way that is more direct than a legislative effort."

What to watch: A dozen other measures are collecting voter signatures to secure a ballot slot β€” most of which failed as part of legislation earlier this year.

  • One would earmark existing state dollars to address teacher retention.
  • Another takes a different approach to mushrooms with psychedelic properties by just decriminalizing them.
  • A third possibility would allow the sale of wine at grocery stores and other places where beer is sold.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the voter generated referendum would lower the state's income tax from 4.55% to 4.4%, not from 4.63% to 4.55% as previously stated. It also corrected the original story to reflect that one proposed ballot measure would earmark existing state dollars to address teacher retention, but it would not increase retail marijuana taxes to provide outside learning opportunities for students

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