An “atmosphere of intimidation” is how Miriam Arneros, a naturalized citizen who immigrated to the U.S. when she was 11, chooses to describe Amendment 76, a ballot measure up for vote in Colorado this November.
Arneros spoke yesterday as part of the official campaign launch of the Campaign for Real Election Protection, also known as No on 76.
The ballot question, which is one of 11 appearing on the statewide ticket this general election, asks voters if the language of the Colorado Constitution should be altered to say that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years of age or older can vote in Colorado, as opposed to “every citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years of age or older can vote in Colorado.
What’s the difference?
It turns out, quite a bit, according to participants in the Zoom press conference, which included Colorado State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Guttierez (D-Denver); Denise Maes, Public Policy Director of ACLU of Colorado; Amanda Gonzalez, Executive Director of Colorado Common Cause; Julian Camera, Campaign Manager; Thandi Glick, Denver student; and Raquel Lane-Arellano, Policy Director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Action Fund.
The amendment, if it passes, would overturn the Colorado Votes Act, which was enacted last year by the legislature. The law allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election to vote in the primary, in order to have a greater say in whom they get to vote for.
“Early participation in voting is one of the strongest indicators of future ongoing voter engagement” said Glick. “It would be undemocratic to pass a constitutional amendment that actively discourages a portion of eligible voters from exercising those rights now and going forward.”
This law would have tangible effects on voter turnout in primaries, Gonzalez noted.
“More than 45 percent of registered 17-year-olds cast a ballot [in June],” said Gonzalez. “That’s more than ten thousand young voters who this amendment would strip voting rights from.”
Additionally, Amendment 76 dissuades immigrant-turned-naturalized citizen voters from going out to vote, due to its confusing and exclusive language, according to multiple speakers.
“This measure is a blatant attack on immigrants, as it causes confusion in immigrant communities,” said Gonzalez. “Naturalized citizens who legally have the right to vote may not know if they can vote, resulting in lower voter turnout in these communities, and a democracy that does not represent their interests.”
The measure won’t just confuse immigrant voters but is also an attempt to draw out anti-immigrant voters, according to Lane-Arellano in a press release.
Arneros agreed, calling the measure a “racist attack on immigrants.”
“[Amendment 76] creates an atmosphere of intimidation in an already anti-immigrant climate,” said Arneros. “Amendment 76 is just another racist attack on immigrants, who are facing intimidation, abuse, and human rights violations at the hands of our current administration.”
The vague nature of the amendment means that the amendment’s effects could be even more far-reaching than we know.
“Right now, Colorado accepts 16 different kinds of ID. You do need ID when you register or when you vote in person” Gonzalez elaborated. “But I do think this could invite a whole host of other regulations and rules that do suppress the vote, and it’s very unclear how that would be implemented, and the true impacts of this law, because there is so little language.”
“The proposal’s funders have provided no leadership on implementation, because they’re not from Colorado, and they have no interest beyond creating confusion for Colorado voters,” Gonzalez added.
The prime funders of this proposal are, in fact, from Florida, and Colorado is far from their only target, says Camera.
“There are other efforts in other states. Citizen Voters Inc. is a Florida-based 501(c)(3). They’re working to pass identical amendments in Florida; Alabama, this year. They’ve already passed one in North Dakota in 2018. They have a ton of money behind their campaign,” Camera said. “They’re targeting Colorado this year because we do have one of the best election systems in the country. And they know that if they can pass this in Colorado, it’ll be very simple for them to pass it in future states. So we really have to defeat this if we want to stop their future efforts.”
The Citizen Voters Facebook features blatant anti-immigration language–front and center is the motif of non-citizen votes “diluting” citizen votes in many of their Facebook posts.
This is despite the fact that Colorado law already mandates that all voters be U.S. citizens.
Maes touched on this during the press conference, saying the initiative is “in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Likewise, Gonzalez touted Colorado’s voting laws, calling them some of the “safest, most secure, most voter-friendly laws in the country.”
And yet, according to Camera, the current polling shows the measure is expected to pass.
Camera points to the misleading language.
“This amendment is not polling well for us. It’s polling very well for them, and that’s because it’s very confusing, you know,” said Camera. “It asks shall there be a citizenship requirement for voting, and that’s very confusing to voters, because they may or may not already know that there is a citizenship requirement for voting, so people automatically just say ‘yeah, I guess,’ not really knowing the intent behind this initiative, that it’s an anti-immigrant effort, and that it’s gonna take away the ability for 17-year-olds to vote in our primaries.”
Camera wants Coloradans to know that the campaign needs help with outreach. “All hands on deck” will be needed for making phone calls, sending texts, and getting involved in the community to educate voters on Amendment 76.