The Colorado Supreme Court will step in to hear a lawsuit challenging Gov. Jared Polis' authority to decide how petitions are gathered to qualify for the November ballot.
The governor issued an executive order May 15 to allow petitions to be gathered by email, in addition to in-person. Any question that makes it on November ballot must have 124,632 signatures from registered voters by Aug. 3, but that's excessively difficult given coronavirus restrictions and concerns.
The business coalition Colorado Concern and University of Denver chancellor emeritus Dan Ritchie sued, a lawsuit endorsed by dozens of business groups. Protect Colorado, a group that supports pro-energy ballot issues, filed to intervene in the case.
"We believe in fair, open and transparent elections," Protect Colorado said in a statement Friday. "The Governor's executive order to suspend requirements for ballot signature collection, including eliminating the notarization process, is not well thought out and opens up elections to fraud and abuse."
The governor's office said there was no attempt to sacrifice the state constitution.
“The constitutional right of citizens to petition the government should never be sacrificed in a pandemic," said Polis spokesman Conor Cahill. "One Colorado court has already ruled in favor of the right of Coloradans to put forth ideas to be voted upon by their fellow citizens, which is a critical component of our system of government that is free for people of all political affiliations to move good ideas forward.”
Polis won in Denver District Court, but the plaintiffs appealed. That case would normally make a stop at the Court of Appeals, but given the timeline the Colorado Supreme Court said Friday it would take up the case.
Colorado Concern said Friday it was in the process of formulated such a request to the state's high court.
“It is extraordinary for the Court to accept a case before the parties have formally asked," said Sarah Mercer of the Denver firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, representing Colorado Concern. "We brought this lawsuit because we believe that this is a critical issue for Colorado and we appreciate the opportunity to make our argument to the Justices.”
“We’re glad the Supreme Court has agreed to resolve the narrow but incredibly important issue about how petition signatures will be collected this summer.”
Mike Kopp, the president and CEO of Colorado Concern, said that while Polis has been a strong leader at a difficult time, the sanctity of the state Constitution is at issue.
"While our challenge to the governor’s authority is narrow, we believe it is critical in our system of checks and balances (that) there are vital limits to every governor’s power, even in a pandemic," Kopp said in a statement. "The people secured the integrity of our initiative process in the state constitution.”