The letters are a direct result of ACLU of Colorado’s successful lawsuit against similar unconstitutionally restrictive rules in Aurora
DENVER – In letters sent today to Weld County, and 11 Colorado cities and towns, ACLU of Colorado is demanding municipalities address unlawful restrictions in their charters that bar people with prior felony convictions from running for municipal office, most of them permanently.
In May 2021, ACLU of Colorado sued Aurora over its similar unconstitutional charter provision that barred Aurora resident, and community leader for racial justice, Candice Bailey from running for an at-large position on the Aurora City Council because of a past felony conviction. An Arapahoe County Court Judge ruled in favor of Ms. Bailey and the ACLU, allowing her to run in the November 2021 municipal election.
“These laws exemplify the collateral consequences that attach to a criminal conviction, with disproportionate harm to individuals and communities of color,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney, Annie Kurtz. “The court’s decision sends a powerful message that formerly incarcerated people are not second-class Coloradans — that they belong on ballots for public office."
The categorical barrier to candidacy is a direct violation of the Colorado Constitution, which protects the right to run for office as a fundamental right of citizenship. Even if a person is imprisoned, the constitution protects their right to run for office once they complete their sentence — unless they are convicted of five listed crimes that relate to violating the public trust: embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury, solicitation of bribery, and subornation of perjury.
The municipal bans apply to felony convictions outside of those five exceptions, violating both the rights of citizenship and equal protection of the laws guaranteed under the Colorado Constitution.
“Many of our communities have been plagued by mass incarceration which has, and continues, to create systemic issues in our already underserved communities. Allowing returning citizens to run for office offers a wealth of lived experience which in turn provides a voice to the unheard,” said Juaquin Mobley, the Vice President of Programs at Community Works. Mobley was formerly incarcerated and now works with other formerly incarcerated people and at-risk youth through Community Works.
ACLU has demanded that Weld County and the 11 cities and towns listed below take affirmative steps to ensure otherwise eligible candidates are not prevented from running for office because of their unconstitutional Charter provisions:
- Federal Heights
- Fort Collins
- Lone Tree
Ultimately, the decision whether a prior felony conviction has any bearing on a candidate’s fitness for office is properly left to the voters.
ACLU of Colorado has asked each municipality for a response within two weeks.
Read the letter to Weld County here: