By Anthony Bowe
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Personhood Colorado, sponsors of the 2010 Personhood Amendment, submitted 46,671 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on Thursday in hopes of curing a deficiency and securing ballot designation for the November 2010 election.
On March 4, the Colorado Secretary of State disclosed that 20.63 percent of the 79,648 signatures submitted by Personhood Colorado were invalid. As allowed by Colorado law, volunteers then had 15 days to replace the invalid signatures with new, valid voter signatures. That translated to over 1,000 signatures per day.
“Over the past few days, the massive quantities of signatures that poured in just amazed us,” remarked Gualberto Garcia-Jones, co-sponsor of the Personhood Ballot initiative. “That means that we collected over 2,600 signatures each day, about two signatures per minute. Some of our volunteers were working all hours of the day, and that is a testament to what we already knew — that Colorado citizens recognize the value of human life and have worked extremely hard to see that each human life is protected.”
The 700+ volunteer petitioners worked around the clock to gather signatures, frequenting churches, grocery stores, as well as Tuesday caucuses, and other public venues. Many college-age church volunteers circulated the petitions at Colorado St. Patrick’s Day Parades and college campuses.
“We were told that we needed to replace over 15,000 of our signatures,” commented Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA. “We knew we could do it, because when you are working on such a critical, life and death issue, volunteers are passionate. We knew it would take a lot of hard work and determination, but we never expected such an outpouring of support. It is clear that the people of Colorado wanted to make a statement — that every human life should be protected by love and by law. This effort is more alive and vibrant than ever.”
“We faced a daunting task and succeeded beyond our wildest expectations, glory be to God!” added Leslie Hanks, co-sponsor of the Personhood Amendment and vice president of Colorado Right to Life. “Now, we’re ready to begin campaigning for life and preparing for victory in November.”
Secretary of State Bernie Buescher now has ten days to count and verify the new signatures.
Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA, also announced Thursday that his organization is planning a possible lawsuit against the Secretary of State’s office.
“There are challenges that are ahead of us and one of the challenges could be in the court room to get some of the unconstitutional laws that surround the initiative process in Colorado overturned,” said Mason.
Garcia-Jones said Buescher’s office was unjust in throwing out some of the initial signatures.
“Even though we’ve gotten all the signatures we need — we’re confident we’re going to be on the ballot — we want to vindicate all the hard work of all our volunteers and they want us to do this,” he said.
The suit would likely challenge changes made by a House bill in 2009 regarding notary rules that was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter last May. HB 1326 was hatched by House Democrats to curtail ballot petition fraud.
Garcia Jones said the manner in which notaries accept identification from petition circulators changed with the law, but he contends that notaries statewide weren’t notified.
“The real problem is notice,” he said. “Notary laws and notary guides listed up to date on the secretary of state Web site still don’t reflect that change in the law.”
Petitioners who turned in the invalid signatures, Garcia-Jones said, were relying on notaries who used “personal knowledge” as a form of identity, which is now outlawed.
Buescher’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit threat but pointed to the petition circulator training guide from July of 2009 that published notary rules. Page eight specifically states, “To complete the affidavit, provide your printed name and residential street address. Additionally, you must present an acceptable form of identification to the notary public.”
Advocates with Personhood Colorado mulling the lawsuit have yet to decide whether to sue as an organization or as individuals. Garcia-Jones said that the organization has 15 days from the time Buescher decides if the initiative petitions are valid.
A separate lawsuit against HB 1326 was filed Monday in federal court claiming the law violates constitutional free speech. Attorney David Lane filed the suit with several plaintiffs including Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute and Mason Tvert, executive director for SAFER, a marijuana advocacy group.
Personhood Colorado joined with volunteers Thursday in celebrating the new signatures. At 2:30 p.m. volunteers personally delivered 13 boxes holding 1,506 petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.
“It’s time to let the babies reclaim their liberty and their right to pursue happiness,” said Hanks of CRTL. “Thomas Jefferson said, ‘the care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the chief and only object of good government.’ It’s time for our government to get back to the basics and let our prosperity live.”
Hanks joined Personhood Colorado for a press conference on the sidewalk in front of the Secretary of States offices in the Wells Fargo building at 700 Broadway Street. CRTL was implemental in mobilizing volunteers and churches across the state to net triple the amount of signatures needed to advance the initiative.
“We were in overdrive,” Hanks said. “We’re thrilled beyond belief with the result with what we set out to do.”
Mason, with Personhood USA, said the Colorado branch of its organization is more organized than those in other states. He said volunteers were prepared to get new signatures even before the organization realized that some of the initial signatures were found invalid. Now he feels the initiative has momentum toward passage.
“What that’s done for our grassroots network is amazing things,” he said. “We’re very organized, were very pointed and now were looking forward to putting that into a campaign that will get a higher percentage and possibly pass this thing in November.”
In 2008 Personhood Colorado advocated for Amendment 48, a similar ballot initiative that failed.
“We’re ready to go, we’re ready to win,” Mason said about this year’s effort.