Fernando Quintero, Rocky Mountain News (Denver), Nov. 9, 2006
Despite illegal immigration being the election year issue, voters only narrowly approved two ballot measures aimed at the problem.
Referendum H, which denies a state tax credit to employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, squeaked by with 50.8 percent of the vote, unofficial returns show.
Referendum K, which directs the attorney general to sue the federal government to demand enforcement of immigration laws, fared slightly better with 56 percent support.
Sponsors believe the two measures didn’t attract more backing because voters were largely satisfied with bills passed during the regular and special sessions of the legislature aimed at illegal immigrants. In all, lawmakers passed 17 such bills.
‘I think there was some blind faith on behalf of voters that the legislature had done the right thing to address illegal immigration,’ said state Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada, who co-sponsored Ref H.
‘My sense is that, before the special session, immigration was the burning issue of the day. But . . . I think it fell off the radar screen after the special session,’ said Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Westminster, a co- sponsor of Ref K.
An analysis of Tuesday’s results by Immigration2006.org, a group of activists and pollsters tracking the impact of immigration on the 2006 elections, found that it failed as a wedge issue for Republicans.
‘The fact that the anti-immigration card didn’t work in Arizona and Colorado shows that this Republican strategy was a loser, and that voters are smarter than the Republicans thought,’ said Christopher Dorval, co-chairman of the group.
Looking ahead, Benefield is confident that Ref H will serve as a deterrent to illegal immigrants seeking work in Colorado, despite criticism that the measure relies on employers to disclose they hired illegal immigrants.
‘I think people have a basic instinct to follow the law,’ she said.