Amendment 66 can stay on the Nov. 5 ballot, Denver District Judge Michael Mullins ruled Tuesday evening in rejecting a challenge to the petitions that got the measure on the ballot.
“The right of initiative is a fundamental constitutional right; as such, any statutes implementing that right must be liberally construed in order to facilitate the exercise of this right,” Mullins wrote, citing a 1994 court decision and ruling that the petition procedures were in “substantial compliance” with laws on the subject.
The A66 petitions had been challenged by two former legislators, Republican Norma Anderson and Democrat Bob Hagedorn, acting on behalf of Coloradans for Real Education Reform, the main A66 opposition group.
Their suit was based on technical complaints about the affidavits that petition circulators had to fill out. One point of contention was 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 argued that such information can only be written by a notary but that it was written by circulators on many affidavits. Because the legislature designed that requirement as a protection against fraud, those lawyers argued “strict compliance” was required.
Mullins, who heard two hours of oral argument in the case last Friday, disagreed, writing, “There is no evidence that there was fraud and, therefore, the only issue for the Court is to determine if the challenges made by the Plaintiffs fail or pass the substantial compliance test. … This Court finds that Plaintiffs’ protest regarding this issue will fail whether the compliance standard is substantial or strict.”
The judge also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims about alleged lack of circulators’ permanent addresses on some affidavits and about alleged use of invalid forms of identification.
The ruling can be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Ballots for the election already printed. If the plaintiffs were to prevail, the votes on A66 wouldn’t be counted.
Read Mullins’ full seven-page ruling here.