Think Before You Ink

Signing Petitions is Not Necessarily a Civic Duty

As a general election approaches, voters are often asked to sign a variety of initiative petitions “just to get it on the ballot so people can vote on it.” This reasoning is inadequate; your signature should be considered at least as valuable as your vote. Far fewer signatures are required to qualify an initiative for the ballot than votes for it to pass.

To help you decide whether or not to sign a petition, the League of Women Voters of Colorado offers these points to consider:

Is it complex?  Some issues can be decided by a simple “yes” or “no” vote, but complex issues need to be thoroughly examined and debated in a legislative arena — not a grocery store parking lot — before writing onto a ballot. Some initiatives are not well written, or contain conflicts that may require court resolution or interpretation.

Whose idea is it?  You can find out the designated representatives and registered issue committees on the Secretary of State’s website.

All signature gatherers are required to wear a badge that identifies them as “volunteer circulator” or “paid circulator”. If the signature gatherer is not wearing a badge, do not sign. If s/he is a paid circulator, the badge should also give the name and phone number of whoever hired her/him.

How will it be funded?  An unfunded mandate or a recall of an elected official who will be up for reelection soon anyway, may impact other essential programs by diverting budget funds.

Does it belong in the Constitution?  If an initiative intends to amend the U.S. or state Constitution, consider whether it really belongs there. Is is a fundamental right or principle that should be protected from change? Correcting a constitutional amendment requires another constitutional amendment — and another vote of the people — which is cumbersome and costly.