Business coalition sues governor over signature collection executive order

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Published Tuesday, May 19, 2020
by Derek Draplin | The Center Square

(The Center Square) - A coalition of business CEOs is suing Colorado Governor Jared Polis over an executive order he signed last week altering how signatures can be collected for ballot initiatives.

Polis signed an executive order Friday that suspends a requirement that petitions be collected in-person, now allowing petition signatures to put initiatives on the ballot to be collected by mail or email. 

Colorado Concern, a coalition of CEOs from across the state, along with Dan Ritchie, chancellor emeritus of the University of Denver, filed the lawsuit Monday in Denver District Court questioning the order's constitutionality. 

The lawsuit argues the governor doesn't have the constitutional authority to change ballot issue rules even during an emergency. 

"Leaders all across Colorado have expressed their view to the Governor that this action is out of line with our state's constitutional protections around the signature gathering process, and that changes like these simply cannot be made unilaterally by the Governor. We believe it is vital to speak up in defense of our constitutional system of checks and balances," Colorado Concern CEO Mike Kopp said in a statement. "The emergency powers granted to the Governor are extensive, but they do not give him the authority to wipe away critical elections safeguards in our state constitution and statute."

"If the court does not step in and address this, chaos in our election process is the likely result, which will weaken public trust in the midst of this already fraught time. In a recent case, the Colorado Supreme Court said that a pandemic doesn't change the rules of the game," Kopp added.

Polis touched on the executive order during a press briefing Monday morning, saying "it's about the right of the people to petition to place something on the ballot.

"Because there is a public health emergency that makes the normal petition gathering next to impossible, it was absolutely critical that we honor the right of the people to place ballot initiatives on the constitution by creating a way that is consistent with our constitutional principle of the right to petition and meets the needs of this public health environment," he said

"I think we've threaded that needle, working with the secretary of state to create a way where people can submit the signatures by scanning them in digitally or mailing them in," Polis added.

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