When Initiatives Collide

February 2006
We'll take a break from the Hickenlooper show to discuss something else related to politics: Initiatives! Admittedly, that sounds less exciting than talking about actual, human candidates, but with all of the press last week about competing gay marriage initiatives, I got to thinking: what happens if two opposite ballot measures both pass? There will be an initiative on the ballot in the fall to ban gay marriage in Colorado (even though it is already illegal, but that's another story), and there will also be an initiative and/or referendum to increase partner rights for gay and lesbian couples (such as health care access and burial rights, etc.) These measures aren't totally contradictory, but what if they were? What if there was a ballot measure to ban gay marriage and a ballot measure to legalize gay marriage...and what if they both passed? Would Colorado just implode? I asked Dana Jaclyn Williams, Public Information Officer for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, if she could lend a hand in answering this question. Graciously, she agreed. Here is what she said in our e-mail exchange:
It is our understanding that if two opposing issues pass, they are read together to the extent they can be read or implemented together. C.R.S. 1-40-123 provides that in the case of conflicting provisions, the measure that receives the greatest number of affirmative votes shall prevail in all particulars as to which there is a conflict. In other words, they are read together and implemented to the extent that they do not conflict, and where they conflict, the measure that gets the most "yes" votes, will control. The Secretary of State's office has no role or opinion in deciding if two proposed ballot measures may conflict. If two conflicting measures were to pass, we would certify the results and those charged with implementation or enforcement would have to figure it out and ultimately it would be up to the courts if there were a disagreement.
So, in other words, you're probably going to have a court battle on your hands at some point, but after the initial results, the AYs have it over the NAYs. As long as one more person voted YES on one of the measures than voted YES on the other one, we would have a winner. Fortunately, Colorado will not implode in that case, and neither will Secretary of State Gigi Dennis, which is good. I'd still like to see it myself, however. Let's legalize marijuana...and ban it. That would be fun. Anyone?