Colorado House Bill 1406 (2008)

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House Bill 1406 is sponsored by House Majority Leader Alice Madden. If passed, the measure would restrict initiative campaigns that hire petitioners to hiring only Colorado residents. The bill would also require initiative campaign organizations to report how much they paid to petition circulators, as well as requiring campaign organizers to pledge that all petitioners have been instructed not to lie or mislead signers.[1]


Bill sponsor and House Majority Leader Alice Madden says there have been complaints every year by people who've felt misled into signing petitions.[1]


The Colorado Springs Gazette printed an editorial strongly opposing the measure:

Madden's bill would require petition organizers to hire only Colorado residents to collect signatures—a clear violation of the right to free association. It would require organizers to report how much they paid signature gatherers, a violation of privacy. It would require petition organizers to pledge that they told signature gatherers not to lie or mislead signers. In a free society, though, none of that matters.

The wording on a petition is all that matters. It's pretty simple: If you don't understand it, don't sign. A signature on a petition is like a signature on a contract, or the casting of a vote. It doesn't matter who asked you to sign, where they're from, or what they said to you before you signed. Read it, and then either sign or decline. We don't need the nanny state guiding our pen.[2]

Joe Mathews at the Blockbuster Democracy Blog has this to say:

The problem with such legislation, as has been noted here before, is that it does not stop initiatives but merely makes the process much costlier. (Bringing in experienced, out-of-state people is far cheaper and more efficient than hiring and training local crews). When the process is more expensive, the use of the initiative is limited to the wealthiest of interests. Here's a better approach: increase penalties and step up enforcement against fraud in gathering (fake names, fake voters, etc.). And if policymakers don't want initiatives, they should be honest about it and ask the people to remove initiatives from their state constitutions. (Half the states have no initiative). But those who seek reform profess to be wanting to protect democracy. And the most democratic reform is one that politicians never offer: reducing the number of signatures required so that qualifying a ballot measure is cheaper. A lower price would open up the initiative process to more kinds of interests and groups—and might actually reduce the use of paid signature gatherers, from in state and out of state.[3]


The bill passed the state legislature on May 6, 2008.[1] But Governor of Colorado Bill Ritter vetoed the measure on May 30, 2008.[4]

Ritter referred to several court challenges Colorado has lost on bills or constitutional amendments. "These cases teach us that the state bears a heavy burden when it comes to regulating petition circulators in a manner that will meet constitutional muster," Ritter wrote in explaining his veto. "In my view, the differential treatment of paid versus volunteer petition circulators contained in House Bill 08-1406 would not survive a constitutional challenge."[4]

See also