A Denver District Court judge on Wednesday ruled against a challenge to the Colorado governor’s executive order making it easier to collect signatures for fall ballot measures.
Gov. Jared Polis issued an order earlier this month suspending some requirements for proposed ballot initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. He authorized the secretary of state to create temporary rules to allow signatures for ballot issues to be collected by mail or email. The emailed signatures have to be physically signed but can then be scanned and returned through email.
Business group Colorado Concern and board member Dan Ritchie filed the lawsuit alleging that the Gov. Jared Polis overstepped his authority. They also named Secretary of State Jena Griswold in the lawsuit.
Before even issuing his order, Judge Robert McGahey predicted at the hearing last week that whatever he decision he made would likely be appealed and left up to a higher court to decide.
McGahey said in his order that Polis’ emergency power to suspend rules during the pandemic applies to any state agency.
He differentiated the court decision not to allow candidates to get onto the ballot who didn’t collect enough signatures, saying the changes to signature collection rules are technical and don’t require strict compliance.
McGahey also said there are ways to verify signatures without having petitions signed in person.
“Given the strong culture and history of the initiative and referendum process in Colorado, the injunction sought by the Plaintiffs would harm the public interest by negatively impacting citizens’ fundamental right to initiative and referendum as provided by the Colorado Constitution,” he wrote.
Colorado Concern disagrees with the judge’s decision and is planning next steps, said president and CEO Mike Kopp.
“The Supreme Court has made it clear even very recently — safeguards protecting the integrity of ballot qualification processes are very much the law of the land even during extraordinary times like these,” Kopp wrote in a statement. “And well they should be — protecting the integrity of the citizens initiative process is in the clear interest of the state and every citizen during good times and bad.”
In statement, Polis said citizens’ constitutional rights shouldn’t be sacrificed in a pandemic.
“The court ruling today is a victory for the right of Coloradans to put forth ideas to be voted upon by their fellow Coloradans, an important part of our governance system that is open to people of all political persuasions to advance good ideas,” he said.