Your Local Election Headquarters Your Local Election Headquarters

Denver judge deems part of ballot Initiative 303 ‘unlawful’

Your Local Election Headquarters

DENVER (KDVR) — Election Day is Nov. 2 and ballots need to be turned in by 7 p.m., which means you can no longer mail them. 

As of Oct. 29, more than 622,223 people state-wide have already turned in their ballots, and 42,070 in the city and county of Denver, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. However, those voters will not get to change their answer after a court order from a Denver district court judge ruled that a section of Initiative 303 is “unlawful.”

The ballot title read: 

Shall the city and county of Denver adopt an ordinance requiring the City and County of Denver to enforce unauthorized camping, providing a process for private enforcement if the City fails to enforce unauthorized camping; allowing the City to establish up to four authorized camping locations on public  the property where the City must provide running water, restroom facilities, and lighting; and funding such camping locations with City revenues to support the city’s homeless population?

The initiative aims to speed up the time it takes for Denver to clean up homeless camps and it would allow any person to bring a civil action against the city if they didn’t do it in a timely manner. 

The city attorney’s office filed a lawsuit claiming that a section of the initiative violates a federal order.  

The initiative requires the city to clean up a homeless camp within 72 hours; however, a federal order requires seven days’ notice before performing a sweep.

FOX31/KWGN spoke to both sides of the issue earlier this month.

“First of all, why didn’t they bring this up months ago during the comment and review section. You know, when we were getting it onto the ballot?” said Lead Proponent on Initiative 303, Garrett Flicker. 

“We are under a federal court order which says ‘You must give a 7-day notice before you clean up an encampment.’ So it would violate federal law almost immediately,” said Mayor Michael Hancock.  

However just a day before election day a judge said subsection C of the ballot measure is unlawful. 

The section in question reads:

“Any person may file a complaint with the City to enforce this section. The City must take enforcement action within 72hours of the filing of a complaint. Any person may bring a civil action against the City in County Court for failure to enforce this section. Any prevailing plaintiff in such action shall be awarded reasonable costs and attorney fees together with appropriate injunctive relief.”

Flicker believed the wording was broad enough, and by saying the city had 72 hours to take action could mean posting that notice.  They also argued the city’s chance to “challenge the sufficiency” of the ballot issue was supposed to be filed by July 31, 2021, and the city missed that deadline.  

The other two sections A & B say no one could camp on private property without approval from the owner and can only camp on public property in four designated areas.

The court document reads that on July 28, 2021, the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office authorized Initiative 303 to appear on the ballot for the November 2, 2021 election.

The Denver City Attorney’s Office sent FOX31 the following statement:

Denver has great respect for the voter initiative process, but this process is not without its limits and it must be lawful. Subsection (c) of Initiative 303 was found by the District Court to be an unconstitutional exercise of the voter initiative process, because it infringed on Denver’s ability to administer its unauthorized camping ordinance.

Based on the District Court decision, if Initiative 303 is adopted by the voters, Denver will not implement or codify subsection (c) of Initiative 303 but the remaining portions of the initiative will be amended into the Denver Revised Municipal Code and become law.

It is important to note that the judge’s decision does not impact the voting process. Voters should be confident that their ballots will be received and processed as usual. Once a ballot is cast, it cannot be revoted. Voters who have filled out their ballot but have yet to cast it may appear at any Voter Service and Polling Center and obtain a replacement ballot. Tomorrow, November 2 is Election Day and all ballots must be in the hands of the Clerk and Recorder no later than 7pm on election day.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Most Read

Top Stories