Independence Institute President Jon Caldara has filed a federal complaint challenging Colorado’s new rules for gathering petition signatures for ballot initiatives. Almost exactly one year ago, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a major bill aimed at reforming Colorado’s initiative petition process, one week after a Republican secretary of state candidate made criticism of the bill a centerpiece of one of his first e-mails to supporters. The law clamps down on signature-gathering firms by prohibiting them from paying petition circulators by the signature and imposing a number of requirements designed to prevent fraud. When passed, the bill had bi-partisan support.

The law, adopted in 2009 by the state legislature, forbids petition circulators from receiving more than 20 percent of their pay on a per-signatures basis. The measure was a response to allegations of fraud by signature gatherers in 2008. Caldara seeks an emergency suspension of the law, reportedly because it is driving up the cost of signature gathering and threatens an anti-health-care-reform initiative he’s pushing. The Independence Institute, of which he is president, is calling for an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would opt Colorado out of the federal health insurance mandates.
Testimony was heard in Colorado federal court Thursday and is expected to resume May 28. The deadline to collect 76,047 signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot is August 2.

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