Anti-abortion rally attendees at the Capitol

Attendees at the Celebrate Life rally gather at the state Capitol on Jan. 11, 2020, to protest abortion and advocate for Initiative 120.

The Secretary of State's office has determined that the signatures to put a ballot measure banning late-term abortions have fallen short of their goal, but they're doing a line-by-line verification to confirm it.

The measure would ban an abortion when the probable gestational age of the fetus is at least 22 weeks. An abortion conducted after that time would be classified as a misdemeanor against the doctor, along with a three-year suspension of license.

The measure makes an exception for when the life of the woman is in physical danger. It also does not apply to miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies.

Due Date Too Late, the group behind the measure, turned in 137,624 signatures for Initiative 120 on March 4. The required minimum valid signatures is 124,632.

After conducting a standard random sample on 5% of the signatures, the Secretary of State's office projected a 97.51% validity rate. Even at that high rate, the number of signatures — 121,525 — fell below the required minimum.

Under the rules, any petitions that turn in signatures with a validity rate between 90% and 110% must then go through a line-by-line verification process.

Spokesman Steve Hurlbert said that should be completed by April 3. At that time, if the number of signatures is still below the minimum, ballot measure proponents will be given 15 days to collect those additional valid signatures.

However, that's being challenged, in a lawsuit filed against the Secretary of State on the same day proponents turned in the petitions.

According to the Colorado Times Recorder, the lawsuit filed in Denver District Court seeks to allow the group more time than the 15 days. They're asking for a deadline of August 3. The lawsuit claims that date is consistent with a constitutional requirement that ballot petitions be filed no later than three months before the election.

The group is represented by former Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, who claimed in the lawsuit that there's a conflict between state law and the state constitution. 

Staiert told Colorado Politics there are two conflicts. One state statute says three months and three weeks before the election; another one says six months from the date the title is set, which was last September. In any case, it gives a date different than Aug. 3. But with the title set in September, it triggered a six-month circulation window with the petitions due in March rather than August.

There's all kinds of conflicts between the constitution and statutes, Staiert said. In the Secretary of State's office, "we never viewed our role" as whether to determine constitutionality. "That's the court's role."

The group is not yet seeking a hearing date, Staiert said. "We needed to turn in the lawsuit to preserve the argument."

Correction: the validity rate on the signatures was 97.51%.

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