DENVER – Colorado voters Tuesday night backed establishing a presidential primary and making it more difficult to amend the state constitution, as part of nine wide-ranging issues that were on the ballot.
Observers had been mostly uncertain about what would happen with Amendment 71, known as Raise the Bar, which makes it more difficult to amend the state constitution.
The measure was leading by double digits at 9 p.m., enough to give it the apparent win.
Colorado voters evolved on the issue, having rejected a similar effort in 2008.
This year, a large coalition of odd bedfellows – including left-leaning and right-leaning activist groups – pooled to try to defeat the issue. They said the initiative will limit the voice of citizens. Their efforts were not enough.
Proponents – including Gov. John Hickenlooper and every living former governor – argued that the ease of amending the constitution has left constitutional conflicts. They also said it gives rural Colorado a voice.
The measure requires signatures from all 35 state Senate districts to make the ballot. Of the total required signatures, the number collected from each district must equal at least 2 percent of the registered voters in those districts to make the ballot.
Proposed constitutional amendments making the ballot would need 55 percent of the vote to pass on Election Day.
Voters also were faced with two issues creating primary election systems that would include unaffiliated voters.
Proposition 107 – which only dealt with presidential elections – was leading by 28 points, as of 9 p.m.
Proposition 108 – which would allow unaffiliated voters to participate in non-presidential primary elections – had a 4-point lead, as of 9 p.m., not enough to call a win.
Proponents knew the non-presidential question was their most difficult battle.
Opponents argued that parties are member-based and expressed concerns about allowing unaffiliated voters to meddle in choosing officials to represent the parties.
Critics also said it would lead to errors on the ballot, which would disqualify votes.
But proponents pointed to the March presidential caucus in Colorado, in which chaos and confusion overshadowed the night. Unaffiliated voters expressed a desire to participate, while party members complained of long lines and frustrations.
A proposal to gradually raise the minimum wage in Colorado also was passing, leading by double digits at 9 p.m.
Voters backed raising the wage to $12 per hour by 2020. The current state minimum wage is $8.31 per hour.
The last time voters approved a minimum wage hike in Colorado was in 2006.
Business interests said the measure would be a burden for owners, forcing them to layoff workers and cut hours.
But proponents said the current minimum wage is too low to provide a basic standard of living. The minimum wage has increased only 21 percent since 2007.
Perhaps the most emotional issue on the ballot this year was one that grants terminally ill patients access to life-ending medication.
The issue was overwhelmingly passing, leading by 30 points, as of 9 p.m.
To be eligible for a prescription, patients would need to be at least 18 years old; have a prognosis of six months or less to live, confirmed by two doctors; be mentally competent; self-administer the medication; and make two oral requests, separated by 15 days, as well as a third written request, signed by at least two witnesses.
Colorado would join five other states that allow access to life-ending medication.
One of the more certain measures on the ballot was one that would have created a $25 billion universal health care system in Colorado.
It was rejected by wide margins and was losing by 60 points, as of 9 p.m.
Proponents acknowledged it was more of a ballot experiment, and they faced opposition throughout the process, including from left-leaning groups that support universal health care, but who expressed concerns about doing so in a state-based system.
Voters also were rejecting raising tobacco taxes in Colorado. The issue was failing by 6 points, as of 9 p.m.
The tax on cigarettes would have been raised $1.75 per pack. The total tax on a pack of cigarettes would have increased to $2.59 per pack.
The question also would have increased the tax on other tobacco products, such as cigars and chewing tobacco, by 22 percent to 62 percent.
The nearly $316 million raised would have gone to health-related programs and tobacco education, as well as services for veterans.
The Legislature also referred two initiatives to voters this year.
Amendment U, which would have eliminated some property taxes for individuals or businesses that use government-owned property for a private benefit, was losing by double digits, as of 9 p.m. Amendment T, which would eliminate archaic language in the state constitution that allows for slavery in some cases, was still a close call, as of 9 p.m.It was ahead by only 7,674 votes, as of 9 p.m.