Aurora Colorado Misdemeanor Candidate Bans Update

Earlier this month, an Arapahoe County District Court judge effectively discarded a passage of Aurora’s city charter, which prohibited candidates with previous felonies from running for office — a direct response to a complaint filed by the ACLU of Colorado on behalf of Candice Bailey, whose bid for Aurora City Council was initially blocked by the rule last year.

Aurora then made an exception for Bailey (she finished fourth in the race for two major places), but the ruling, issued on March 14, makes it clear that the ban on people convicted of crimes violates the state constitution. The city of Aurora plans to hold a ballot in November to resolve the issue once and for all — but it’s not the only Colorado community where the problem lingers.

Bailey’s criminal record dates back to the end of the last century: In 1999, when she was 22 years old, she confessed to second-degree assault and spent about three years in prison. But this passage of time has not circumvented the Aurora Act, which states, “Individuals convicted of a crime may not become candidates and are not qualified to hold any elective office.”

In an August 2021 interview, Colorado’s ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein explained why his organization objected to this passage. “The Colorado Constitution actually talks about this issue in regards to civilian life,” he noted. “If you are sentenced to prison, you lose your right to vote – but it is automatically restored when you serve your sentence. The Constitution says that your full rights to citizenship are fully restored, and that includes not only the right to vote, but the right to run for public office.”

As a result, he said, “It is a violation of our client’s rights for Aurora to state that our client has been permanently disqualified from public office in that city simply because of a two-decade-old conviction for a felony. the House of Representatives, she could work for any office in the entire state, but for some reason in Aurora, a felony conviction prohibits her from participating in local government that way.

Colorado’s ACLU filing on Bailey’s behalf pointed to similar language in several other city charters across the state. Here are examples included in the document:

Arvada City Charter: “No person shall be eligible to serve as a city councilor or mayor who has been convicted of a felony in any court of the United States within ten (10) years from the date of acceptance of the office of City Councilor. “

Brighton City Charter: “No one convicted of a crime is eligible to be elected or appointed to the office of mayor or councilor.”

Evans City Charter: “An individual convicted of a felony is not eligible to run for city office.”

Federal Heights City Charter: “No one convicted of a felony or willful violation of this Charter may be nominated or elected to serve as mayor or councilman.”

Fort Collins City Charter: “No person convicted of a crime is eligible to run for or serve as a councilor.”

Greeley City Charter: “An individual convicted of a crime is not eligible to run for city office.”

Johnstown City Charter: “No one convicted of a felony … shall be qualified to serve as mayor or councilor.”

Lone Tree City Charter: “No one convicted of a crime may serve as a councilor…”

Montrose City Charter: “Any voter can run for the office of councilor, if he has never been convicted of a crime….”

Pueblo City Charter: “A person convicted of a crime may not run for council or mayor.”

Windsor City Charter: “No one convicted of a crime is eligible to be elected or appointed mayor or board member.”

According to Annie Kurtz, an attorney who has worked with the Colorado ACLU on the case, the importance of the recent opinion goes beyond Bailey.

“The ruling is a major legal victory that undermines the validity of similar provisions that are still in effect in jurisdictions across the state,” Kurtz said. “These laws illustrate the side effects associated with criminal convictions, with disproportionate harm to individuals and communities of color. The court’s decision sends a strong message that previously incarcerated people are not second-class Coloradans — that they belong on ballots for public office .”

Aurora spokesperson Ryan Luby notes that “The Aurora City Council passed an ordinance last summer that changed eligibility to hold municipal office in accordance with the state constitution. In addition, the City Clerk included a notice in the city charter to [a] A November court order that Ms. Bailey imposed a permanent injunction against the city.”

Luby adds, however, “later this year, a voting call for Aurora voters will come forward to bring the charter in line as well.”

One down, still a lot to go. Click to read Candice Bailey v. City of Aurora, et al. and the order on the claimant’s claim for judgment.

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