After Gov. Jared Polis released an executive order suspending requirement for petition gathering, it touched off a flurry of efforts to get on the November ballot Monday, as well as a new lawsuit in Denver District Court.
The suit alleges Polis' order exceeds his constitutional authority.
The suit is led by University of Denver chancellor emeritus Dan Ritchie and the business coalition Colorado Concern.
“The Governor has led our state admirably through these dark and difficult days, and so many of us have stood with him throughout,” Ritchie said in a statement Monday. “But Governor Polis’ Friday evening executive order, which would remove vital safeguards that go to the very heart of the integrity in the initiative process, reaches beyond the power given to the Governor by the people, and has to be challenged.”
A spokesman said the governor's office doesn't normally comment of pending litigation.
"The Governor has taken action to safeguard our democracy and access to the ballot during this unprecedented pandemic,” Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said in an email Monday.
The complaint is available by clicking here.
Mike Kopp, the Colorado Concern's CEO and a former Republican candidate for governor, said leaders across the state told Polis the move would be viewed as out-of-line with constitutional protections regarding signature gathering, which can't be made unilaterally by any governor.
"We believe it is vital to speak up in defense of our constitutional system of checks and balances,” Kopp said. “The emergency powers granted to the Governor are extensive, but they do not give him the authority to wipe away critical elections safeguards in our state constitution and statute. If the court does not step in and address this, chaos in our election process is the likely result, which will weaken public trust in the midst of this already fraught time. In a recent case, the Colorado Supreme Court said that a pandemic doesn’t change the rules of the game.”
Chris Murray, a litigator with Denver-based super law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck added, “Colorado’s constitution guarantees that signatures will be gathered transparently in front of a third-party. Governor Polis’ executive order undermines the integrity of the in-person process that Coloradoans (sic) have long demanded.”