DENVER- The University of Denver’s Chancellor Emeritus along with a bipartisan group are suing Governor Jared Polis for a recent executive order which would allow signature collecting for ballot measure petitions to be done via email or by mail.
Over the weekend, Governor Jared Polis issued the executive order citing Covid-19 concerns, and wanting to enhance social distancing.
The order allows the Secretary of State to create rules to make signature collecting for ballot measure petitions valid over mail or email.
The group involved in the lawsuit is Colorado Concern, a bipartisan group made up of CEOs and business leaders across Colorado.
In a news conference Monday, Polis said this action was necessary.
“It’s not about us. It’s about you, it’s about the right of the people to petition and place something on the ballot.” Polis said. “Because there is a public health emergency, the normal petition gathering process is next to impossible.”
One of the lawyers representing Colorado Concern tells KREX 5/Fox 4, the in-person signature gathering has been in Colorado’s constitution since 1910, and this process ensures fairness and accuracy.
“Signatures on a petition are presumed valid, that they have to be singed in person,” said Chris Murray of the firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, and Schreck. “As long as they’re signed in person, then they are presumed valid.”
Murray also says in-person petition activities can still be done in a way to keep Coloradans safe.
“Petitions almost always are gathered outside,” Murray said. “And through this whole emergency, we’ve been interacting with people in the same way you’d interact with petition circulators. Whether that’s going to get groceries or going to our favorite restaurant to get takeout.”
Last year Mesa County commissioner Rose Pugliese was successful in gathering enough signatures to ask voters in 2020 whether to repeal Colorado’s National Popular Vote Law. Pugliese says if she was gathering signatures now, she would still want to in person to ensure the integrity of the process.
“Obviously people would still wear masks. I would have people wearing gloves, obviously disinfecting,” Pugliese said. “I think we are living in this Covid world and I think we just need to figure out how to adjust to it.”
But Governor Polis feels there needs to be a balance between safety and the democratic process.
“What’s more important is that we not let our democracy be a casualty of this pandemic.”