Close, but no cigar: Slavery amendment loses

Photo credit: Corey Hutchins

Much has been written about why voters turned down Amendment T, the measure referred by the Colorado General Assembly to the November ballot that would have struck slavery from the language of the state Constitution.

Critics and voters have said the measure’s wording was confusing, or cited “ballot fatigue” — there were just too many issues for voters to decide on this year.

Amendment T language

Related: Amendment T – the slavery question – hanging in limbo

Here’s another possible reason: Denver voters were by far the strongest supporters of Amendment T, but not enough of them actually voted on the measure to help it pass.

Final unofficial ballot numbers are in from Denver, and Amendment T won by about a two-to-one margin there, with 188,477 “yes” votes and 95,811 “no” votes.

But plenty of voting Denverites — more than the statewide average, in fact — “undervoted,” or didn’t make a choice on Amendment T at all. In Denver, almost 55,000 people who cast ballots didn’t vote either way.

Statewide, based on unofficial election results from the Secretary of State, Amendment T failed by a margin of fewer than 18,000 votes, with 1,285,310 “no” votes and 1,267,578 “yes” votes. In order for the amendment to have gone to an automatic recount, the difference would have had to have been a fraction of that — about 6,426 votes.

Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton was disappointed when he learned just how close the measure came to passing. But he told The Colorado Independent he isn’t giving up. He said he plans to launch another effort to put the measure on the ballot and work with supporters to change the strategy so that voters will have a better understanding of the measure in the future.

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. From talking to others, the wording in the blue book made it sound like this measure would affect work programs in prisons. I doubt anyone thinks slavery should be in the constitution, but I do think that a lot of people support work programs and wouldn’t want them to be diminished. So yes, the way it was presented in the blue book was confusing and unless people read more elsewhere, I don’t think they fully understood the issue.

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