Politics

Aurora Ballot Question 3A on if convicted felons can run for office

The city of Aurora lifted its ban preventing people convicted of felonies from running for City Council last year, but Aurora residents will have to vote on the issue in November to change the city charter.

Ballot Question 3A will ask voters whether to allow for the change, bringing the language in line with the state constitution. Instead of a prohibition on “convicted felons holding elective office,” the charter would be amended to prohibit people convicted of “embezzlement of public money, bribery, perjury, solicitation of bribery or subornation of perjury” from elected office.

Despite city officials adding a note to their rules saying they would not enforce an overall ban, an Arapahoe District Court judge ruled last November that that wasn’t enough.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Aurora activist Candice Bailey and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado because of the language that would have prevented Bailey from running for City Council. Bailey had a second-degree assault charge from 1999 on her record. Although she was still allowed to run for office, she said she pursued the action for future candidates, too.

The City Council voted in August to place the question on this year’s ballot because only voters can amend the city charter.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, City Clerk Kadee Rodriguez said the city would not prevent people convicted of felonies from running for office.

“We are showing a best faith effort to comply with the district court’s ruling, and if the voters vote no, then this would be something that we still wouldn’t be able to enforce due to the district court’s ruling,” she said.

Bailey told The Denver Post that she had been talking about the ban for almost two years before the lawsuit, calling the prohibition a remnant of the Jim Crow era.

“It was not about me,” she said. “It was about the ideology that that right in our nation should have been restored the moment I was no longer incarcerated,” she said.

Those who have served their time shouldn’t continue to be punished, Bailey said, and she plans to create “Jim Crow councils” that will work to tackle these types of laws in other cities.

At least 25 home-rule municipalities in Colorado have some sort of felony conviction disqualifier for elected office in their city charters, but six are for specific enumerated crimes (as Aurora is asking voters to approve), according to data from the Colorado Municipal League. Some of those rules have caveats and only apply in certain instances, such as if a person is currently serving a felony sentence. Two of the cities, Westminster and Louisville, require candidates to disclose prior felonies. Denver disqualifies potential candidates who have been convicted of willful evasion of city or state taxes or convicted of malfeasance in office, bribery or other corrupt practices.

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