Colorado could replace Columbus Day with Election Day as a holiday

Author: Joey Bunch - April 10, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

Columbus Day A portrait of a man believed to be Christopher Columbus was painted by Sebastiano del Piombo and completed in 1519. (Public domain art)

The Colorado General Assembly’s annual bill to cancel the state’s observance of Columbus Day took on a twist on the House floor Tuesday.

House Bill 1231 was amended by its sponsor, Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Commerce City, to replace it with Election Day as one of state government’s 10 official days off each year.

Opponents contend the holiday honors a man who brought Europeans, death and culture demise to the natives in the New World.

Each year representative of Colorado’s Italian community fight the ban, because they say it’s the only way their culture is heritage.

The new proposal would create a task force to find ways to honor the state’s many ethnic cultures, starting with Italians. The task force would hold meetings that could possibly recommend legislation to officially celebrate Italian heritage, which the General Assembly could consider in next year’s session.

Other than state government, businesses would not have to allow employees off on Election Day, just as many don’t observe Columbus Day that way.

“This is an annual discussion and it seems to be without a resolution,” Benavidez told the House Tuesday morning.

She said Christopher Columbus is the only person the state honors with a holiday who never visited the United States, unlike Martin Luther King Jr. or those honored on Presidents Day.

The state officially does nothing to recognize the many heritages that shaped its history and culture today.

Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, said he was initially opposed to giving state workers time off on Election Day.

“Election Day is the day we need our government as best as it possibly can,” he said.

But he found that Boulder County had been observing Election Day as a holiday for a decade. The clerk’s office workers take another day off, but city employees from other departments typically volunteer to help on Election Day, improving the function, not harming it.

Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Littleton, opposed the proposal. She said because of mail ballots and early voting, “Election Day is just the day we count the votes, not when (most) people go vote,”

Because the amendment changes the cost of the bill, it was referred back to the House Appropriations Committee for reconsideration, once those costs are compiled by legislative staff.

The bill would still have to come back to the House for more deliberation and two votes, before it could go to the Senate to start over. Time is getting short with just four weeks to go before the May 9 adjournment.

Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1934. Colorado was the first to make Columbus Day a state holiday in 1907. however.

Columbus Day celebrates the date in 1492, Oct. 12, when Columbus and his crew reached landfall in the Bahamas. Some historians think the Vikings arrived in North America before Columbus, however.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.