Attempts to get initiatives on ballot go by the wind

Lack of paid petition gatherers hindered initiative efforts
The Colorado Statesman

Sponsors of at least five ballot proposals watched their titles expire on Monday, as they were unable to collect the necessary 86,105 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

The initiatives included an effort to provide undocumented immigrants with a driver’s license, two efforts to protect the state’s water sources and two efforts to legalize recreational marijuana.

One of the most controversial of the proposals was Initiative 52, which would have asked Colorado voters to make a statutory change to approve driver’s licenses for all, despite legal residential status.

A spokeswoman for the campaign, Jennifer Piper, said sponsors were unable to collect the necessary signatures, citing as the main problem a grassroots effort that went without costly pay-per-signature petition gathering. Sponsors were still able to gather about 40,000 signatures, she said.

“It’s the first time around for us and we didn’t have any paid circulators, and so we felt that we didn’t get enough volunteers quickly enough,” said Piper. “But the response was pretty good from the people that we did talk to.”
Proponents believe they made progress just by bringing attention to the issue.

“We all feel like we started a conversation that needed to be had…” said Piper. “There was a big misconception that people didn’t have licenses because they didn’t want them. A lot of citizens didn’t know they weren’t allowed to get licenses.”

Critics had contended that the initiative legitimized illegal immigration by offering identical privileges given to American citizens.

Marijuana efforts go to pot

Two other controversial initiatives that won’t be on the ballot this November sought to legalize recreational marijuana.

Concerns were raised over legitimizing a drug that is still illegal on the federal level. But more intriguing were concerns about the two proposals conflicting with a marijuana legalization question that has already been certified for the November ballot.

A divide in philosophy within the marijuana community resulted in three competing measures, with only one, Amendment 64, actually collecting enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Amendment 64 sponsors have been boosted by over $1.1 million in campaign contributions, much of them coming from outside the state.

Colorado voters will be asked this November to make the personal use — possession of up to one ounce and limited home growing of marijuana up to six plants — legal for adults 21 years of age and older. The proposal would also require an excise tax of up to 15 percent.

But not everyone within the marijuana community agrees with the strategy of Amendment 64. Michelle LaMay, sponsor of the now defunct competing Initiative 40, said she will not vote for Amendment 64 because it doesn’t offer directives directly to the courts. Her initiative differed from Amendment 64 in the sense that it would have prohibited courts from imposing any fine or sentence for the possession of marijuana.

LaMay said she was saddled by the costly signature gathering fees and was therefore unable to collect the signatures needed to compete with Amendment 64. She said an internal analysis found that at least 40 percent of the signatures she had collected would have been deemed invalid.

“This leaves me to believe that many people don’t know they’ve been disenfranchised by redistricting and by aggressive county clerks that are deactivating people who didn’t vote in 2010,” said LaMay.

Another competing legalization initiative, Initiative 70, also died after sponsors failed to submit signatures. I-70 would have defined personal use of marijuana as a constitutional right, allowing recreational users to have eight plants per adult, or 16 plants per household, or the equivalent of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana per day.
Sponsor Rico Colibri did not return multiple messages and e-mails left by The Colorado Statesman seeking comment on why sponsors did not hand in signatures on Monday.

Water rights measure slips by

Two efforts to protect water sources in Colorado also failed after sponsors were unable to submit signatures on Monday. Both initiatives aimed to declare water as belonging to the people of Colorado.

Initiative 3 would have simply declared that the public owns the water of Colorado; Initiative 45 would have addressed use and environmental issues by allowing the public to “limit” or “curtail” the right to divert water within the state.

Richard Hamilton, who sponsored both initiatives, said they were hampered by a challenge to the title language, which went to the Colorado Supreme Court and was not settled until April 16, dramatically shrinking the period of time sponsors had to collect signatures.

In the end, sponsors ended up with about 30,000 signatures, said Hamilton.

“We’ll go back and put something in and go after them again in 2014,” he said. “Hopefully there will not be such inordinate delays. We now know that the process is adversarial.”

Critics, including the Colorado Water Congress, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the Colorado River Water District, had opposed the measures, stating that the initiatives were too broad, allowing the public to block water diversions for a wide range of issues that could affect how the state and local governments distributed needed water.

Other issues failing to make the ballot

• Initiative 88 — Would have declared that counties should be permitted to impose local subdivision regulations on land;

• Initiative 78 — Would have stated that a “sincerely held religious belief” cannot be “burdened” by the government;

• Initiative 74 — Would have permitted Colorado citizens to carry a concealed or open handgun without a permit;

• Initiative 51 — Would have created Colorado Peace Day;

• Initiative 75 — Would have created an “open general primary” to determine the top candidates for the general election;

• Initiative 76 — Would have re-shaped state senatorial districts based on geography and not on population;

• Initiative 84 — Would have prohibited lenders to foreclose on property without proof of the security interest or deed of trust;

• Initiative 85 — Would have transferred elections duties from the secretary of state to a nonpartisan elections administrator; and

• Initiative 86 — Would have prohibited government from blocking individuals from voting.

Peter@coloradostatesman.com