Some Facts about the Colorado Constitution

Compiled for Colorado Constitution Panel

By Dennis Polhill, March 4, 2008

Colorado’s Constitution is average.

  • It contains 45,679 words.

  • The longest is Alabama at 310,296 words.

  • The shortest is Vermont at 8,295 words.

  • The most amended is Alabama with 711 amendments.

  • The least amended is Illinois with 11 amendments.

Between 1912 and 2005 (93 years) the citizens of Colorado have considered 254 proposed amendments.

  • 125 were referred by the General Assembly.

  • 129 were initiated by citizen petition.

111 of the 254 (43.7%) proposals were approved by voters.

  • 69 of 125 (55.2%) of those referred by the GA.

  • 42 of 129 (32.6%) of those by citizen petition.

Nearly two-thirds of the amendments to the Constitution originate in the GA.

  • 69 of 111 (62.2%) were referred by the GA.

  • 42 of 111 (37.8%) originated by citizen petition.

Some of the 42 could have been statutory, but most of the 42 had to be Constitutional. Counting entails subjectivity. This author estimates that one quarter could have been statutory. Thus, the target universe is small (10 in 93 years).

The incentive for issue proponents to go statutory is in place.

  • 32.6% of initiated amendments pass.

  • 41.3% of initiated statutes pass.

  • The election advantage of statutes over amendments is 8.7 points.

  • That is a 27% increase in proponents’ prospect of prevailing.

Amendment 2002-27 (Campaign Finance Restrictions by Common Cause) added 5,685 words (over 10%) to the Colorado Constitution. Amendment 27 was the rebirth of statutory initiative 1996-15 after it had been unilaterally modified by the GA.

The disincentives for issue proponents to go the statutory route (as illustrated by 2002-27) have yet to be addressed.