Part of Colorado’s Amendment 71 — “raise the bar” — is unconstitutional, federal judge rules

In a Wednesday court order, a federal district court judge concluded that part of last year’s voter-approved Amendment 71 — which made it harder to change the state constitution via ballot initiative — violates the U.S. Constitution.

The order by Judge William J. Martinez stopped short of striking the amendment down, but pledged to block a significant part of it from being enacted unless Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams can convince him otherwise.

Amendment 71, dubbed “Raise the Bar” by supporters, lifted the threshold for passage of constitutional amendments to 55 percent of the vote. And, to get on the ballot, measures now need signatures from 2 percent of registered voters in all 35 state Senate districts.

But in April, opponents of the measure filed suit, arguing that the signature requirement violated the principle of “one man, one vote,” because Colorado’s Senate districts vary greatly in size. The court agreed, concluding that the “widely varying registered voter populations” violates the 14th Amendment.

“Part of the new amendment process is constitutionally infirm,” the judge concluded. “It is, however, severable from the remainder of the new requirements” — meaning the higher vote threshold needed for passage can stand.

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