Campaigns hoping to increase Colorado's tobacco tax, open primary elections to unaffiliated voters, reinstate the presidential preference primary and further regulate oil and gas development turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures Monday in hopes of placing those issues on the November ballot.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his staff have 30 days to verify that signatures were collected from registered voters. Instead of going line by line to make sure each campaign gathered at least 98,492 valid signatures, staff members will examine a random sample of 5 percent of the signatures. Petitions deemed valid will become questions on the ballot. Those deemed invalid will not be on the ballot or will require a line-by-line check of the signatures.
Two other campaigns turned in signatures last week - to legalize the prescription of life-ending drugs to terminal patients and to make it harder for the Colorado Constitution to be amended in the future.
Once it's decided whether these five questions will appear on the ballot in November, knockdown-drag-out fights are expected, especially one pitting major industry operators extracting mostly natural gas and oil from Colorado using hydraulic fracturing against environmentalist groups that in the past have been funded by millionaires.
The proposed initiatives won't receive official names until they are placed on the ballot. So far only Amendment 69, a proposal to create a universal healthcare system in Colorado, is officially on the ballot.
Let Colorado Vote, the group behind the petition drive to reinstate presidential preference primaries and also to open up primary elections to unaffiliated voters, said it turned in a combined 310,000 signatures.
"Only 6 percent of registered Colorado voters participated in the recent caucuses," said Kent Thiry, chairman of Let Colorado Vote and CEO of DaVita Inc. "Simply put, we believe restoring the presidential primary and opening primaries to all voters is good for democracy."