The next time someone asks you to sign a petition for a statewide ballot measure, there will probably be one more question that you might not be able to answer: What state senate district do you live in?
Now that “Raise the Bar,” aka Amendment 71, has been passed by voters, it’s now up to the Secretary of State to figure out how to implement it. And one of the biggest problems is how to satisfy the requirement that 2 percent of voters in each state senate district sign petitions for ballot measures.
Raise the Bar, which passed with 55.69 percent of the vote, changes the approval requirements for constitutional ballot measures. Petition collectors, who until now simply had to acquire a total number of signatures statewide, must now gather signatures from 2 percent of registered voters from all 35 state senate districts. Once on the ballot, a constitutional amendment must now receive at least 55 percent of the vote, rather than the simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote.
Just how will petition circulators know if they’ve met that 2 percent? According to Secretary of State Wayne Williams, people might know who their state senator is, but knowing the number of that senate district is another matter.
Williams discussed the problems with implementing Amendment 71 with a bipartisan election committee that met this morning at the Secretary of State’s office.
Williams noted that many petition circulators congregate around grocery stores and other shopping areas, which draw people who don’t necessarily live in the senate district where the store is located.
One committee member suggested petition circulators could carry maps for the area where they’re gathering signatures, but there may be people who want to sign who don’t live in that district, Williams pointed out.
Williams suggested that much of the work of verifying which senate districts petition signers live in will likely be a job for the petition circulators at the “backend,” after signatures are already collected. Circulators will have to do the research, Williams said.
Cory Nadler of Rocky Mountain Voter Outreach, a petition company, said his company already has a process in place that will satisfy the requirements of Amendment 71. But it isn’t a cheap way to do it. “We do signature gathering door to door,” Nadler told The Colorado Independent today. “We carry iPads with updated voter files and can target households based on the senate districts. That’s the easiest way,” Nadler said. But it’s also more expensive to travel to voters rather than collecting signatures en masse in front of the local King Soopers or at a mall, he added.
For that type of signature gathering, Nadler said the work will then be at the backend. Signatures will be collected and then entered into a database to check the signer’s senate district. It will require extra time by those collecting petition signatures, but “as long as you leave yourself enough time, you’ll know whether you’ve got enough from each senate district,” he said.
“It will be incumbent upon us and our competitors to figure this out,” Nadler said.
Ben Schler of the Secretary of State’s office says that raises another question, about just how much responsibility petition circulators will have in figuring this out on their own and how much guidance the Secretary of State’s office should provide.
The next step is to send a bill to the Colorado General Assembly to change state law to match up with what’s in Amendment 71, Williams said.
Photo credit: Kelsey Ray, The Colorado Independent