The citizen initiatives in Colorado are out of control. I just spent about two hours going through all of the issues on the ballot. On the ballot for Boulder city residents, in addition to the national, state, county, and city candidates, there were:
- 14 proposed amendments to the Colorado constitution
- 4 proposed amendments to Colorado statutes
- 2 Boulder County issues
- 7 Boulder city issues
The reason people are putting these issues on the ballot is because they don't like the decisions made by their government, so they're attempting to go around the government directly to the voters.
The problem with that is that voters don't have enough information to make sound decisions. The complete text of the ballot issue is far to complex and dense for the average voter to ever get through, and the summary text and summary arguments for and against each measure can never capture all of the important implications of the measure. (I'll ignore for the moment the dozens of related TV and radio commercials, every single one of which is misleading, generated as a result of these measures.)
This is a recipe for bad laws to be passed that take forever to unwind.
I consider myself more politically aware than the average citizen, and I happen to have a little free time on my hands right now to give considerable thought to the issues, but when I sealed up my mail-in ballot, I had a queasy feeling that I had made some mistake or that I had missed an important consideration. Voting should make me feel like I'm advancing the interests of my state by taking part in the electoral process. It should not make me feel like I just contributed to my state becoming a social, cultural, political, or economic backwater due to silly citizen-enacted laws.
The way to get better laws enacted is to change the people making the laws, not to go around them. Colorado needs to raise the bar on citizen initiatives to make them more difficult to get on the ballot. In that way, only the truly important issues will be considered. This will also require voters to think harder about who they elect as their representative, hold them to a higher standard, and demand more accountability.
Lawmakers get paid to understand and interpret all of the implications of important issues. If your representative still doesn't do what you want regarding an issue important to you, run for office yourself. Don't try to push the decision responsibility on an ill-prepared electorate.