Federal appeals court lifts stay on Colorado Amendment 71 | AspenTimes.com

Federal appeals court lifts stay on Colorado Amendment 71

Volunteers help deliver petition signatures to put a health care question on the 2016 Colorado ballot on Oct. 23, 2015.
AP file

DENVER — A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated Colorado’s Amendment 71 — making it more difficult to change the state constitution — weeks after a judge’s order blocked parts of it from enforcement.

The stay issued by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals puts the voter-approved measure, known as “Raise the Bar,” temporarily back in effect for any constitutional initiatives proposed for the November 2018 ballot, the Colorado secretary of state’s office confirmed.

A federal district court judge in March blocked key portions of Amendment 71 from being enforced, saying the amendment’s new signature requirements violated the principle of “one person, one vote.”

The lawsuit challenging the amendment’s constitutionality is still pending before the Court of Appeals. At issue is whether the state can require interest groups to collect signatures from 2 percent of registered voters in all 35 state senate districts in order to put constitutional changes on the ballot.

Proponents argue the higher signature threshold is necessary, because it should be harder to change the state’s constitution, which is among the longest — and convoluted — in the country, critics say. They also argue that rural areas should have more of a voice in ballot access. Today, groups attempting to access the ballot typically only collect signatures in the state’s major population centers along the Front Range.

But opponents say the amendment, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016, will block all but the wealthiest causes from the ballot. In blocking parts of the measure from enforcement, Judge William J. Martinez wrote that the signature requirements represented a “classic vote-dilution problem,” because Colorado’s registered voter populations vary widely from one senate district to another.

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