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Politics and Government

Colorado election 2021 guide: What you need to know about the ballot initiatives and how to cast your vote

Election Day is Nov. 2 and voters will be making decisions on a slate of ballot measures, as well as local school board races

Voters cast their ballots at downtown Denver's Bannock Street polling location on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado voters will decide Nov. 2 whether to approve a slate of statewide and local ballot initiatives, as well as pick the members of their local school boards. 

Here’s what you need to know to participate:

🗳️🗳️ ELECTION 2021: What you need to know to vote and about Proposition 119, Proposition 120 and Amendment 78. 🗳️🗳️


When do I need to mail my ballot back?

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

County clerks can begin mailing out ballots Oct. 8, and voters should begin receiving them as soon as the next day. 

If you want to send your ballot back through the mail, Denver Elections recommends you do so no later than Oct. 25 to ensure it’s counted. Ballots must be received by your county’s clerk by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Ballots received after the deadline but postmarked before Election Day won’t be counted.

After Oct. 25, voters should submit their ballots at a drop box or vote in person.

Can I track my ballot?

Yes. 

Your best resource is govotecolorado.gov, where you can log into to check your voter registration status, review a sample ballot and learn whether your ballot has been mailed.

To track your ballot through the counting process, sign up for the state BallotTrax system. Voters can go to colorado.ballottrax.net to sign up for the service.

Denver residents interested in keeping tabs on their ballots must sign up for a different system at ballottrace.org/home

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What if I want to vote in person?

You can still do that. 

In-person voting will begin as early as Oct. 18 in Colorado. Voters must be in line to vote by 7 p.m. on Election Day to cast a ballot.

To find an in-person polling place, visit govotecolorado.gov.



There are three measures on Colorado’s 2021 statewide ballot.

Here’s a look at what they are with links to more detailed explainers on their effects, and the arguments for and against voting for them:

Amendment 78

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Amendment 78 would require the Colorado General Assembly to determine how the state uses what it defines as “custodial money,” or funding the state receives from outside sources, like federal grant money and private donations. 

Supporters say the measure would bring greater accountability and transparency to state spending. But opponents see it as little more than a partisan ploy attempting to hobble the Democratic administration.

There’s a catch, though: A pending lawsuit challenging the measure’s placement on the ballot seeks to invalidate any votes cast — for or against the measure.

For more on Amendment 78, read our explainer.

Proposition 119

FILE – In this Nov. 27, 2015, file photo, a bud tender holds two marijuana buds on his fingers on the way to a customer at the Denver Kush Club in north Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Proposition 119 would increase Colorado’s recreational marijuana sales tax rate by 5 percentage points, to 20% from 15%, phased in over three years.

The tax rate would jump 3 percentage points in 2022, and then an additional percentage point in 2023 and 2024. The new taxes are estimated to raise more than $87 million next fiscal year, which starts July 2022. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

The revenue would go toward creating the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress program, or LEAP, which would pay service providers, like private tutoring companies or even public school teachers looking for extra work, to provide a wide variety of educational or developmental support services to K-12 students in the state.

Supporters of the measure say that by giving kids from lower income families a chance to access tutoring and enrichment programs, the program can help those kids catch up academically to their more privileged peers and start to reverse the negative effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on learning.

Public education advocates who oppose the measure, however, paint it as a slippery slope to vouchers and a threat to the state’s public education system, and argue that any new tax revenue for education should go into the existing system rather than a whole new program. Meanwhile, opponents in Colorado’s cannabis industry say the increased sales tax is regressive and may push consumers back into the black market.

For more on Proposition 119, read our explainer.

Proposition 120

Proposition 120 would, if approved by voters, reduce the property tax assessment rates for multifamily housing to 6.5% from 7.15% starting in 2022. If you owned affected property valued at $300,000, you would pay $1,950 per 100 mills (a mill is a $1 payment on every $1,000 of assessed value) versus $2,145.

The rate would also be reduced for lodging properties, to 26.4% from 29%. If you owned affected property valued at $300,000, you would pay $7,920 versus $8,700.

Proponents of the measure say a property tax reduction for multifamily housing could reduce rents and encourage investment to ease the state’s housing shortage. Lower property taxes for lodging property may allow businesses to expand and hire more employees.

Opponents argue that slashing property taxes may result in local government cuts, including for schools and fire departments that rely on property tax revenue to operate.

For more on Proposition 120, read our explainer.


Colorado Sun staff writer Daniel Ducassi contributed to this report.


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