Colorado’s ballot initiative campaigns will have to gather signatures the old fashioned way, instead of going digital, if they want to place questions on this November’s election ballots.
That’s according to a new ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court, which struck down Gov. Jared Polis’ emergency changes to the process. It’s a change that may dramatically increase costs for campaigns. To collect their thousands of signatures, they will have to send more paid canvassers and volunteers into the field.
Polis issued an executive order in May that was meant to allow the collection of signatures by mail or email. Campaigns normally have to collect thousands of signatures in person to qualify for the ballot. The business group Colorado Concern and one of its members sued the governor, arguing he’d overstepped his authority.
They lost in a lower court, but the state’s highest court took the appeal. The court noted the petition gathering process was written in detail into the state constitution by voters in 1910. The constitution requires that “the personal signature occur in the presence of the person circulating the petition,” the ruling said. “That requirement cannot be suspended by executive order, even during a pandemic.”
The email collection system was meant to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission by reducing the use of in-person signature gathering. That could also make it cheaper and easier to gather thousands of signatures. But some campaigns were still trying to figure out the new process, and most were deploying in-person crews anyway, with safety measures like using a new pen for every voter.
Nineteen initiatives are currently in the signature gathering phase, including the tax measure that would raise rates on higher income earners; a measure to create a paid family and medical leave program; new taxes on tobacco and nicotine; and measures to lower taxes and give voters more control of fees.
Read the full story at Colorado Public Radio.