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Want a measure on the ballot in Colorado? Prepare to pay up.

A Democratic political consultant says it costs more than $2 million to pay canvassers to collect enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot.

DENVER — Every ballot initiative that could still make the Colorado ballot this year paid companies collecting signatures, an indication that the process designed to allow voters a direct say in lawmaking requires deep pockets to achieve. 

"It has just come to a place where you can't get on the ballot unless you have significant resources and a lot of funding," Lisa Weil, executive director of Great Education Colorado, said. 

Weil, and her colleague Tracie Rainey with the Colorado School Finance Project, tried to get Initiative 63 on the ballot this year. It would have sent one third of one percent of income tax already collected to the state's education fund to help attract, recruit and retain teachers with more money. 

Rainey said voters liked the measure.

"It had support that was stronger than any other polling that we've seen in decades," she said. 

But this week, Initiative 63 failed. Even with 600 volunteers on street corners across the state, the project didn't collect enough signatures to make the ballot. 

"This is a very frustrating situation where we know it would pass if we could've gotten it on the ballot," Weil said. "The voters want it, but there are barriers in the way of them getting to exercise their values."

The barrier: 124,632 required signatures --  5% of the total number of votes in the 2018 Secretary of State's race. That number of signatures is a lot easier to achieve if you pay the people collecting them, democratic strategist Jennie Peek-Dunstone said. 

"It definitely puts a bias toward things getting on the ballot that have money behind them, and you know there's already a lot of that in our politics," Paul Teske, the University of Colorado Denver's Public Affairs School dean, said. 

Because there are more voters in Colorado, the number of signatures required has gone up meaning groups that can pay canvassers have an advantage. 

"In reality, it's often the case that groups have money and have an issue and they can get on the ballot because of that," Teske said. "And it may or may not be a good idea, but they have the money to bring it forward." 

A ballot initiative campaign comprised entirely of paid canvassers costs north of $2 million, Peek-Dunstone said. The price tag is partially because groups must collect about 220,000 signatures, assuming some are ruled invalid in the verification process.

It's money the education advocates just didn't have. 

"You just can’t get on the ballot without a lot of money, and we were not able to get that critical mass of funding," Weil said. 

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