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Colorado top-four ranked-choice voting initiative to be filed targeting 2024 ballot

Jackie Mitchell | Ballotpedia

(The Center Square) Voters in Colorado could decide on a ballot initiative to adopt top-four ranked-choice voting in November 2024.

Kent Thiry, the former CEO of DaVita, said he plans to file the ballot initiative, which would change state executive, state legislative, and congressional elections. The new electoral system would go into effect beginning in 2026.

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The initiative proposes changes similar to those established in Alaska through voter approval of Ballot Measure 2 in 2020. Under the initiative, candidates would run in a single primary election, regardless of a candidate’s party affiliation. The four candidates that receive the most votes advance to the general election. At the general election, voters elect state and federal candidates using ranked-choice voting. For state executive, state legislative, and congressional elections, voters rank the four candidates that advanced from their top-four primaries. A candidate would need a simple majority of the vote (50 percent+1) to be declared the winner of an election. If no candidate wins a simple majority of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. People who voted for that candidate as their first choice would have their votes redistributed to their second choice. The tabulation process would continue as rounds until a candidate received more than 50 percent of the total vote.

Currently, in Colorado, primaries are conducted on a semi-closed basis, meaning that only registered party members and unaffiliated voters may participate in a party’s primary. Winners in Colorado’s primaries are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes cast wins the primary election.

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Initiative proponent Kent Thiry said, “I think this is about bringing voice and choice back to the people. Whether they’re Democrats, Republicans or independents, they need their voice and choice back.”

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R) of Colorado’s 3rd congressional district, said, “I will oppose this effort to rig our electoral system in Colorado with everything I have. Ranked choice voting is a scheme launched by well-moneyed interests who are only concerned with their own power and not giving Coloradans a choice at the ballot box.”

Thiry has supported and funded ballot measure campaigns in Colorado and California in the past, and as of November 2023, he donated $6.7 million to state and local candidates and ballot measure committees in Colorado.

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In 2016, Thiry founded Let Colorado Vote, an organization created to “increase voter access, engagement and participation in Colorado elections,” which supported Colorado’s Propositions 107 and 108 on the ballot that year. Both measures passed. Proposition 107 provided for Colorado’s presidential primaries and allowed unaffiliated voters to vote in them. Proposition 108 allowed unaffiliated electors to vote in the primary election of a major political party without declaring an affiliation with that political party. It also permitted a political party, in some circumstances, to select candidates by committee or convention, rather than through a primary election. Thiry donated a combined $2.35 million to Propositions 107 and 108.

In 2018, Thiry was the co-chairman of Fair Districts Colorado. The organization supported Colorado Amendment Y and Colorado Amendment Z. Voters approved both amendments, with each creating a 12-member redistricting commission responsible for, respectively, approving Colorado’s Congressional (Amendment Y) and state legislative (Amendment Z) district lines. Amendment Z also established qualifying criteria for members of the commissions and restrictions on prior or current elected officials, candidates, or lobbyists being members. Additionally, it enacted requirements for the district maps.

Thiry also donated $2.1 million to the campaign supporting approval of Amendment B on the 2020 ballot. Amendment B, which was approved, repealed the Gallagher Amendment, which set residential and non-residential property tax assessment rates in the state constitution and allowed the Colorado State Legislature to freeze property tax assessment rates at the current rates (7.15 percent for residential property and 29 percent for non-residential property).

Ranked-choice voting has been on the ballot six times in four states. All six measures were citizen-initiated measures. Ranked-choice voting was approved in Maine, Alaska, and Nevada. In 2024, voters in Nevada and Oregon will decide on ballot measures to adopt ranked-choice voting.