Friday, October 13, 2006

Colorado - Vote YES On Amendment 38



By Dennis Polhill and Douglas Campbell

The right to petition is our greatest bulwark against tyranny and corrupt politics. Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” affirm the sovereignty of the people over their government. Political insiders constantly try to weaken petition powers. Why? Petitions strengthen citizens, while reducing the power, and increasing the accountability, of politicians.

Coloradans must reject further strangulation of petitions by politicians, bureaucrats, and other authoritarians. We must defend our First Amendment right to petition. The Founding Fathers wisely provided us this safety valve to relieve public frustrations that might otherwise lead to lawlessness or bitter apathy.

Petition opponents falsely claim petitions are now the playthings of the rich, inaccessible to grassroots activists. They fantasize that sinister forces now control our ballots, buying petition signatures and election outcomes with special interest money.

In fact, citizen efforts can succeed. In 1992, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) Amendment used all volunteer petitioners and passed, despite being outspent 4-to-1 by government unions and other special interests. Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and other grassroots groups have also reformed government using petitions.

Well-funded efforts can fail. In 2002, multi-millionaires Jared Polis, Rutt Bridges, and Ron Unz poured their money into four losing petition campaigns. Later, Big businesses pushed Amendment 32 to repeal homeowner property tax limits, but lost 3-to-1 to opponents who spent little.

Money can’t make voters support a bad idea. Money spent lobbying legislators brings better results for special interests, which is precisely why we need the check-and-balance that petitions provide.

Schemes to raise signature requirements would worsen the problem by making petitioning more difficult for grassroots campaigns. Likewise, requiring super-majorities for some ballot issues, so that “no” votes count more than “yes” votes, would be absurdly undemocratic.

Voters are selective and reject many petitioned reforms. In 95 years, only about 70 petitioned laws have been approved by Colorado voters. By contrast, our legislature passes several hundred new laws each year. Yes, the petition process does need some help. Governmental hostility and petty technicalities now discourage citizen efforts to clean up politics. That is why Citizens for Petition Rights has proposed Amendment 38, the Petition Rights Amendment (PRA), which is now officially on the 2006 state ballot.

  • Disturbed by petition drives funded by the super rich? PRA extends modestly the signature collection period, so citizen volunteers can succeed.
  • Dismayed at governments spending tax dollars to campaign against petitions? PRA fines officials who steal tax money to buy elections to advance their own political agenda.
  • Displeased that many petitions propose amending the constitution? PRA creates incentives for statutory laws, not constitutional ones, by stopping politicians from repealing or gutting voter-approved statutory petitions. PRA also encourages the legislature to lower the signature requirement for statutory petitions.
  • Disgusted with use of petty technicalities to toss out petition entries? PRA provides standard forms and tolerates minor omissions like county, apartment number, or year signed.
  • Tired of partisan judges stalling petition cases? PRA requires prompt decisions.
  • Upset that you are now prevented from petitioning your county, school, or special district? PRA extends that right to citizens in all local governments.
  • Confused by lengthy, legalistic ballot titles? PRA limits wording and guarantees a balanced voter information guide.
  • Worried about constant petition elections? PRA limits them to each November.

Colorado has the nation’s most anti-petition legislature. Our citizens have successfully appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly to restore our right to petition after political attacks. PRA will save tax dollars now spent on litigation by defining the entire petition process in one easy-to-read page.

Remember, petitions alone change nothing. They merely allow citizens the right to vote on proposed laws. Those who attack petitions are trying to suppress your precious right to vote.

Please go to the Volunteers section on the main menu to learn how you can help protect your right to petition.

For more information, e-mail or call 303-753-5050. Volunteer to help us now, and remember to vote for Amendment 38, the Petition Rights Amendment, on November 7th. THANK YOU!

PRA proponent Dennis Polhill of Golden is past Chairman of the Board of the national Initiative and Referendum Institute.

PRA proponent Douglas Campbell of Arvada ran for Secretary of State in 1994.


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