Opinion: Why we oppose ballot initiative 76

Peter Bakken
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

On your ballot this November you will find Amendment 76, an initiative asking Coloradans to amend our state constitution to require that “to be qualified to vote at any election an individual must be a United States citizen” – even though Colorado already requires that all voters be U.S. citizens. We are voting NO on Amendment 76, for the following reasons.

Amendment 76 would change language in the constitution to read “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in federal, state, and local elections, instead of  “every citizen” of Colorado who is 18 years old or older can vote. The effort to change our Colorado constitution is being led and paid for by a well-funded out of state group. They wish to perpetuate the false narrative that we allow non-citizens to vote in Colorado, and that we need to “protect” our state and our voting processes from immigrants, neither of which is true. And they hope to overturn the recently passed Colorado Votes Act, which allows Colorado 17-year olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election. 

Amendment 76 is, first and foremost, an anti-immigrant measure, placed onto our ballot with $1.42 million from outside of Colorado. It is meant to suppress the votes of naturalized U.S. citizen voters and U.S. citizen voters of color, by sowing confusion about who is eligible to vote, and by intimidating and bullying qualified immigrant voters into not voting. It perpetuates the harmful idea that immigrants and their families are not an important part of our electorate, and should not have a voice in our Colorado communities. Finally, Amendment 76’s proponents promote the false and patently racist views that immigrants are “diluting” the votes of non-immigrant citizens, and are actively trying to vote fraudulently to steal our elections.  

Amendment 76 will also disenfranchise approximately 24,000 young 17-year old voters in our state, who in Colorado law are allowed to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election. This expansion of our electorate was part of the Colorado Votes Act passed in 2019. Amendment 76 would overturn this provision, and would silence thousands of young people eager to begin participating in our democratic system. When people engage early in civic processes such as voting, they’re more likely to stay engaged over their lifetimes. Amendment 76 is an anti-democratic attempt to overturn the will of Colorado’s voters as expressed through their legislators with the passage of the Colorado Votes Act. 

Amendment 76 was brought to Colorado by an outside PAC from Florida, Citizen Voters Inc., which has been working state by state to try to implement similar constitutional amendments as part of a national anti-immigration strategy. Their aim is to spread the unfounded and xenophobic narrative that our elections are not secure and undocumented people are fraudulently voting. This could not be further from the truth, especially in Colorado – we already have a U.S. citizenship requirement for voting; we have a secure process that ensures that only those who meet the legal requirements can register to vote; and we are a national leader in fair, secure, and accessible elections, which include accurate, same day voter registration, a robust ballot drop-box system, vote-by-mail, and a transparent vote counting process. 

This November, we will stand up for Colorado’s immigrants and communities of color, and for the young Coloradans engaging for the first time in our democracy, by voting NO on 76. 

The Coalition for Real Election Protection is a state-wide coalition of groups opposing Amendment 76. For more information on this ballot initiative, visit the Coalition’s website and social media pages. 

Peter Bakken is the executive director of Mountain Dreamers, a nonprofit organization in Summit County that aims to educate and empower residents to stand up for the rights of immigrants.

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