This Week in Colorado History November 1 – November 7: Election Day

As students gear up to vote Tuesday, they face a long list of decisions. But this is not unique, for there have been many complicated elections in Colorado’s 134 years of statehood. Ballot measures have ranged from serious to, by today’s standards, silly, but provide an interesting snapshot of life in that year.

Whenever anyone complains about the number of issues on the ballot, just consider the ballot of 1912, wihch contained 22 measures! From this overloaded election, Colorado women, miners, and underground workers received an eight-hour workday, while municipalities received home rule. Juvenile courts were created, welfare was extended to dependent children, and the civil service law was amended. If it seems a lot was accomplished in this election, just imagine if all of the measures had passed. Colorado would have received reduced constitutional amendment publishing costs, a state fair, a new tunnel in the mountains, a definition of contempt of court, and statewide prohibition of alcohol, among other things. (Prohibition would pass in 1914 and be amended to exclude beer in 1916. National prohibition began in 1920 and was repealed in 1933). 

The 1932 ballot appeared a bit like the ballot of 2010. Five measures were listed; two passed and three failed. The passing measures included a repeal of prohibition and a reapportionment of legislators. The failed measures are much more relevant to today. Colorado Issue 1 limited taxation of cars and gas. Colorado Issue 4 appropriated taxes to school funding and Colorado Issue 5 added a graduated income tax, reduced property taxes on state buildings and gave revenue to schools. Colorado Issues 4 and 5 are in some ways the opposite of Amendment 61 and Proposition 101 of 2010, and Colorado Issue 1 shares similar ideas with Proposition 101. It seems there are few original ideas in seventy-eight years!

Every election, different issues appear on the ballot. Most people read them, cross their eyes at the formal language, read them again, vote, and forget about the issues. Finding these forgotten thoughts again after seventy-five or one hundred years can be entertaining and perhaps provide a little chuckle on the way to the voting booth.

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