Yes on Amendment 28, no on the others |

Yes on Amendment 28, no on the others

Colorado citizens have collected enough signatures to place five proposed amendments on the Nov. 5 ballot. Four would amend the state Constitution – an act that should be taken very seriously – and one amends the Colorado Revised Statutes, the laws enacted by the state Legislature.

We recommend a no vote on all but one of the proposed amendments.

Amendment 27 would set limits on the amount of money that individuals, businesses and political parties can contribute to state-level candidates, from governor to district attorney; increases the information donors must disclose; and sets voluntary spending limits. It wouldn’t affect candidates for federal, county or town offices.

The limits favor incumbents and wealthy candidates, and it’s hard to imagine a watertight system that big money couldn’t find a way to get around. In addition, we view campaign donations as an element of free speech, and that simply shouldn’t be abridged. We recommend a no vote.

Amendment 28 would convert most elections, starting in 2005, to mail-in ones. Die-hard polling place voters could still vote at the local high school. The measure includes sufficient security against voter fraud. Mail-in primary elections have boosted voter participation by 10 percent or more, and reach voters whose busy lives or poor health may prevent them from voting otherwise. Mail ballots also have the potential to save counties money by reducing polling places.

Voters who cast their ballots as soon as they are received may miss issues raised close to election time. But we trust people to vote when they are ready. This is the one ballot amendment we favor; we recommend a yes vote.

Amendment 29 would require all candidates for political office, from the county coroner to U.S. senator, to obtain a required number of signatures to have their name placed on the primary ballot. At present, most candidates gain a slot on the ballot by nomination at precinct caucuses and county assemblies, although the petition route is an option.

Few voters attend precinct caucuses, and this measure seeks to put candidates in touch with voters. This measure would effectively kill caucuses, and discourages voters from being as active in their party. And the petition option already exists for those who don’t win a nomination. The amendment actually narrows the options for voters and candidates, and we recommend a no vote.

Amendment 30 would allow eligible residents to register to vote on Election Day, starting in 2004. At present, residents must register 29 days or more before an election. We feel that voting is a privilege. It’s not a last-minute decision. Ballots are long and complicated, and voters should expect to spend a month learning about their choices. There may be room for compromise, requiring registration 14 days before the election. But leaving registration until Election Day could increase the cost of elections and open the door for voter fraud. We recommend a no vote.

Amendment 31 is the most talked-about question, with considerable hyperbole on both sides. It would do away with bilingual education programs and require non-English speakers to be taught in an English language immersion program. It also allows parents to sue schools and teachers if they fail to follow the law.

Immersion may have value for some students, particularly younger ones who pick up languages faster. But this measure is unfair to non-English-speaking students, puts a huge cloud over educators and completely ignores proof that most people can’t start to learn academic subjects in another language until they have learned the language itself for three to seven years. And addressing educational policy, which has high potential to change with our society, through a constitutional amendment is just plain nuts. A no vote is imperative for this proposal.

– Post Independent Editorial Board

Members of the Editorial Board are Publisher Valerie Smith, Managing Editor Heather McGregor and News Editor Dennis Webb.

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