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The initiative process is complex and lengthy, but can be accomplished within a reasonable period of time if particular attention is paid to the requirements of each applicable statute and the Colorado Constitution.
The Secretary of State has prepared this summary to outline the various steps in the initiative process including the requirements for preparing and qualifying initiatives.
This document provides a general overview of the initiative process. It is not intended for petition entity licensing or circulator training requirements. For more detailed information please review Article V, Section 1 of the Colorado Constitution and Articles 40 and 41 of Title 1, C.R.S., and review the training guide for petition entity representatives and circulators.
1. Preparation and Drafting
Any person interested in placing a constitutional amendment or statutory proposition on the statewide ballot must begin by drafting the initial language of his or her measure.
When writing a proposal, please keep in mind your targeted audience. It is best to use plain, non-technical language, and words with common and everyday meaning understandable to the average reader.
2. Review and Comment Meeting
When the proponents of the measure have completed their typewritten draft, the text must be submitted to the Legislative Council Staff so that a review and comment meeting may be scheduled.
Proposals must designate the names and addresses of only two people who will represent the proponents. Telephone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses for the two designated representatives are necessary so that the proponents may be contacted on all matters related to the proposed initiative.
For more information about the specific responsibilities of designated representatives, please review the Summary of Designated Representative Responsabilities.
Proposals may be submitted in person, by mail, by fax, or by email to:
Mike Mauer, Director
Colorado Legislative Council Staff
State Capitol Building
Denver, Colorado 80203
Upon receipt of the draft language of the initiative, the Legislative Council Staff will assign a number to the proposed initiative for tracking purposes.
Additionally, Legislative Council Staff will schedule a public review and comment meeting to occur two weeks from the date of filing. The purpose of the meeting is to review the language of the initiative to ensure that the measure accomplishes the proponents’ intent and to give public notice that a proposal is under consideration.
The Office of Legislative Legal Services and Legislative Council Staff prepare written comments of each proposal prior to the review and comment meeting and make them available on the Legislative Council official website.
For more information, please see Article V, Section 1(5) of the Colorado Constitution and section 1-40-105, C.R.S.
a. Opportunity to Amend Proposal
Following the review and comment meeting, proponents will have an opportunity to amend the proposed initiative before submission to the Secretary of State. Amendments may be based on some or all of the comments made by the directors of the Legislative Council Staff and Office of Legislative Legal Services.
If substantial amendments to the proposed initiative are made, other than amendments in direct response to the comments of the directors, proponents must submit a new draft of the measure to the Legislative Council Staff for a review and comment hearing.
3. Filing the Text with the Secretary of State
After the review and comment meeting, and once any necessary amendments have been made, the proponents may file with the Secretary of State.
The following documents must be submitted to the Secretary of State:
1) The original typewritten draft submitted for a review and comment hearing;
2) The amended draft with changes highlighted; and
3) The original final typewritten draft which has the final language for printing of the proposed initiative.
Documents submitted to the Secretary of State must include the number assigned by Legislative Council and must clearly indicate the draft version (i.e. original draft, final draft, etc.)
Additionally, if no changes were made to the text after the review and comment hearing, proponents must submit the text along with a letter from the Legislative Council Staff stating that an additional review and comment meeting is not necessary.
At the time of filing, the names and addresses of the two designated representatives must be included along with their phone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses. Proposals are filed with:
Secretary of State
1700 Broadway, Suite 200
Denver, Colorado 80290
Phone: 303-894-2200, ext. 6307
If proposals are sent by e-mail, hard copies must also be mailed within 5 days.
For additional information, see sections 1-40-104 and 1-40-105(4), C.R.S.
4. Ballot Title & Title Board Hearing
After a measure has been filed with the Secretary of State, the Initiative Title Setting Review Board (Title Board) will hold a public hearing.
The Title Board is comprised of designated officials from Legislative Council, the Attorney General's Office, and the Secretary of State's Office.
a. Ballot Title Requirements
In accordance with Colorado law, ballot titles:
- must be brief;
- cannot conflict with another ballot title selected for any petition previously filed for the same election;
- must be in the form of a question which may be answered:
- “yes” (to vote in favor of the proposed statutory proposition or constitutional amendment); or
- “no” (to vote against the proposed statutory proposition or constitutional amendment); and
- must unambiguously state the principle of the provision sought to be added, amended, or repealed.
b. Single-subject Requirement
Every constitutional amendment or statutory proposition proposed by initiative must be limited to a single subject, which must be clearly expressed in its title. In other words, the text of the measure must concern only one subject and one distinct purpose.
For additional information relating to the single-subject requirement, see Article V, Section 1(5.5) of the Colorado Constitution and section 1-40-106.5, C.R.S.