Election modification legislation passed in the House and the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee and now up for consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee makes substantial changes in the number of petition signatures required of small party or unafilliated candidates that will make getting on the ballot more difficult.
House Bill 19-1278, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, creates a much higher bar to independent candidates making the ballot that does not apply to either Republican or Democrat candidates.
Susanne Staiert, Deputy Secretary of State told Complete Colorado she has several concerns with the bill.
“There are certainly issues with it because the Democrats and Republicans have an automatic route to accessing the ballot and the unaffiliated do not,” said Staiert. “Collecting 10,500 signatures in seven different congressional districts apportioned 1,500 apiece is quite a task. I think it will very much discourage any unaffiliated candidate from running for a statewide office.”
Amendments to the current law found on pages 15 and 16 of the bill applying only to small party and unaffiliated candidates make the following changes to the number of petition signatures required:
For president and vice-president, it increases the number from 5,000 statewide to 1,500 in each of seven congressional districts, more than doubling the previous total required to 10,500 and requiring petitioning in all seven congressional districts.
For statewide offices the increase jumps from the lesser of 1,000 or 2 percent of votes cast for all candidates in the most recent general election to numbers specific to the individual office.
For governor or U.S. senator it changes to a flat 1,500 per congressional district for a total of 10,500.
For secretary of state, attorney general or treasurer, it changes from 1,000 or 2 percent to a flat 1,000 per congressional district for a total of 7,000 signatures.
For at-large seats on the state board of education or University of Colorado board of regents, 500 per congressional district are required for a total of 3,500 up from 1,000 or 2 percent.
For U.S. representatives, the congressional district state board of education and CU regent seats it jumps from the lesser of 2 percent of votes cast in the district or 800 to 1,500 or 2.5% of votes in the district.
For state senator the jump is up from 2 percent or 600 to 1,000 or 3.33 percent.
For state house representatives it’s up from 2 percent or 400 to 1,000 or 5 percent in the last district election, more than doubling the required signatures needed for independent candidates to qualify for the ballot.
For district attorney numbers are up from 2 percent or 650 to 1,000 or 3.5 percent, whichever is less.
For any county offices it’s up from 750 to 1,000 or 2 percent. The percentage remains unchanged.
“It certainly makes it much harder to access the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate and I think that’s part of a bill that’s so large that maybe people weren’t paying attention to that part of what was happening,” said Staiert.