VIDEO: Wanna know what’s *really* scary? Trying to read this Colorado ballot.

This election season has been stressful for a lot of voters. First you have to pick from two unpopular candidates, unless you’re voting Green or Libertarian. Then there the judges whose names you’ve probably never heard of (we’re helping you with that). Then you need to figure out whether to go to a polling place or a drop-off location or mail it in, and, the latter, how long you can wait before getting it in the mail. (Got you covered there, too.) 

And then there is the ballot. As in, who writes these measures.

The answer, as you might have guessed, is lawyers. In Colorado, attorneys follow a certain style for ballot writing, and that is “the shorter the bill can be drafted, the better”, according to the Colorado Legislative Drafting Manual. Each ballot measure is a yes-or-no question, starting with “Shall there be” and ending with a question mark. And each must contain all the  changes to the existing law, often written as clauses. Which makes for long, clause-laden sentences.

 The goal for such legislative writing style is to be “understandable to the average reader,” according to the Initiative Drafting Guide and Style Sheet. Yeah.

Here, a few average readers take on the 244-word, semicolon-peppered, clause-weighted Amendment 69, also known as Colorado Care.


  1. A great piece of journalism. It seems to me that Allen Tian is a rising star. Thanks for improving our world!

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