Referendum O fails by slim margin

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The one referendum on this election's lengthy ballot that would've surely shortened future ballots failed narrowly.

Referendum O would have increased the number of petition signatures needed to place state constitutional amendments on the election ballot.

Opponent Robert J. Corry Jr. said its failure showed Colorado voters are smart enough to reject bad amendments on a ballot and didn't need the referendum.

"People voted for their constitutional right to not have their constitutional rights restricted," he said.

Referendum O would have given citizens an incentive to run less-sweeping statutory initiatives, by reducing the number of signatures needed to put one on the ballot. It also would have made it harder for lawmakers to overturn voter-approved statutes by requiring a two-thirds legislative majority to change them within five years of passage.

It now takes the same number of petition signatures to put citizen-sponsored statutes on the ballot as it does to put amendments before the voters. So activists usually go the amendment route.

Supporters of Referendum O said it was needed because Colorado's easy-to-amend legal cornerstone had become a kitchen sink for everything from bans on trapping to clashing budget spending caps and mandates.

"A constitution should be a broad framework of freedoms as opposed to what ours had become - a micro-managing budgetary document full of conflict and irrelevancy," said Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, a sponsor of the measure. "When things are put directly into the constitution, they are enshrined virtually forever."

Opponents said Referendum O would stifle grass-roots activism. Corry Jr. said Referendum O would make ballot measures "nearly impossible," by requiring 50 percent more signatures for constitutional amendment petitions, shortening the time period to gather signatures and imposing public hearings and other bureaucratic burdens.

How the other referendums fared Tuesday:

- Voters approved Referendum L, a measure to lower the minimum age of candidates for the Colorado House and Senate from 25 to 21.

- Voters approved Referendum M, a measure to remove an obsolete constitutional provision that empowered the legislature to give private landowners tax breaks to promote the planting of trees, hedges and orchards.

- Voters approved Referendum N, a measure to remove an obsolete provision dating from the 1876 Colorado Constitution prohibiting "poisonous or drugged spirituous liquors." Federal law now regulates liquor safety.

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