Why Can’t Colorado Pick One Deadline to Submit Initiative Petition Signatures?

As many of you know, my Independence Institute boss has taken charge in leading a statewide ballot campaign to exempt Colorado from the kind of mandates imposed on us by Obama Care. What fewer people may realize is the immense challenge it can be to obtain 76,047 valid signatures (which typically requires collecting a much higher number of signatures to make sure you have enough valid ones) to reach the ballot in the first place.

The current legal strictures enacted by our state legislature — including not allowing paid circulators to collect signatures — make it extra difficult for citizens to petition their government. It’s even messier when you consider, as effectively documented by Ballotpedia, that the law contradicts itself in setting the deadline to turn in your petition signatures. If you go by the state constitution this year’s deadline should be August 2. If you go by last year’s law (HB 1326), the deadline should be July 13.

So which is it? The Secretary of State formally has advised Caldara that they will honor the August 2 constitutional deadline. But Ballotpedia notes that doesn’t clear the matter by any means:

If initiative sponsors turn their signatures in on August 2, and the SOS office counts the signatures and certifies the measure for the ballot, there is nothing to stop an initiative opponent from suing the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, saying that they didn’t have the right to arbitrarily change the deadline to August 2, if the 2009 statute is what should determine the filing deadline. What would a judge say in that circumstance? Initiative sponsors have no way of knowing what a judge would decide. That’s what makes this cloudy situation troublesome: It makes it tough for initiative sponsors to feel a high degree of certainty about what Colorado’s courts, if it comes to that, will say about what the deadline really is, after the deadine [sic] is long past.

Thus, as Face The State’s Peter Blake aptly observes, “ballot initiative promoters can lose even when they win.” What a messy way to do business, undermine respect for the law and further erode faith in basic government fairness.


  1. says

    The constitution should prevail, but it’s awfully expensive to get to that spot. This raises so many issues I’ll have to link to this in a blog post. Colorado has lots of laws on the books that conflict with the constitution-many criminal statutes. DAs and cops enforce them as written, then it’s up to the defendant to argue the application is unconstitutional.

    All of this also goes to the concept that following the constituion applies to all three branches of government. This is a principle ingrained in our legal system, but one I was shocked to see virtually ignored in Colorado. I’m hoping our new legislature will do a house cleaning of the entire Colorado code.

    Obviously, the entrenched in government want a monopoly on law making and disdain the initiative process. This is why ease of petitioning government is part of the CUT pledge. Our side should not forget that recall petitons are part of this. The recall law was saddled with procedural obstacles a few years back so onerous as to virtually eliminate the right of recall.

    How about just challenging this law in advance as violating the constitution? I’m not up on whatever weirdo procedures may exist in CO for this.

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