Denver District Judge R. Michael Mullins Friday gave lawyers time to file more paperwork in the lawsuit challenging the petitions that put Amendment 66 on the ballot.
Mullins spent two hours hearing arguments from – and posing lots of questions to – lawyers representing the two former legislators who brought the suit and attorneys defending the state and A66 proponents.
The plaintiffs, Republican Norma Anderson and Democrat Bob Hagedorn, argue that votes on A66 shouldn’t be counted because of alleged errors in some of the affidavits filed by petition circulators. Throwing out those affidavits would have the effect of invalidating the accompanying petition signatures, bringing A66 below the minimum number of signatures needed to be on the ballot. (It’s too late to remove A66 from ballots because those already have been printed.)
The particular point of contention is whether a line on the affidavit for listing a petition circulator’s form of identification should have been filled in by a notary public or by the circulator. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that information can only be written by a notary but that it was written by circulators on many affidavits.
The bigger legal issue in the case is whether petition procedures have to be in “strict compliance” or “substantial compliance” with legal rules for petition gathering. Defense lawyers argued that substantial compliance is the appropriate test in light of past Colorado Supreme Court decisions that the constitutional right to propose ballot measures should not be infringed by legal technicalities.
Several of Mullins’ comments and questions seemed to indicate that he was learning toward the substantial compliance argument. But he gave lawyers until 5 p.m. Friday to give him lists of past decisions they think might bear on the case.
At the beginning of the hearing Mullins said he might rule Friday, but not later than Tuesday. (Courts are closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday.) Whatever the judge’s decision, it’s expected to be appealed to the supreme court.
Andrew Freedman, campaign manager for Colorado Commits to Kids, commented on the proceedings by saying. “Opponents of investing in our schools seem to be worried that a majority of Coloradans like what they see in Amendment 66, and we expect the court to reject the opposition’s desperate attempt to deny voters the right to participate in the democratic process.”