Former GOP Congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos, who is leading the Initiative 76 “Citizen Voter” campaign, believes in the effort not only for its policy impact, but as a political organizing tool to help Republicans in the 2020 election.
The Colorado Constitution already mandates that voters to be citizens of the United States, yet the ballot initiative proposes to amend a single phrase, from “every citizen” may vote to “only a citizen” may vote.
While legislators and lawyers can debate whether the new phrase would actually change the current law’s effect, Athanasopoulos went on the radio to say that there is another benefit to the campaign: energize lagging Republican political campaigns in need of a “lifeline.”
On Tuesday, House Republicans may have showed at least some faith in his argument by not only delivering the Initiative 76 signatures themselves, but also sharing a video of several lawmakers including House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), Minority Caucus Chair Lori Saine, (R-Dacono), and Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) carrying boxes of petitions into the Secretary of State’s office.
Speaking to KNUS hosts Chuck Bonniwell & Julie Hayden on July 29, Athanasopoulos said:
“This can be the spark that lights the fire. This can be the issue that Republicans can run on and get people enthusiastic and frankly it shouldn’t just be a Republican issue this should be an American issue.”
He expounded on his point a few minutes later, imagining a Republican candidate using the initiative as a campaign talking point:
“This is a great issue for Republicans because if you’re a Republican running for office I would vocally say, ‘I signed the petition I am supporting this initiative. I believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections. How about my opponent? Did my opponent sign this? Does my opponent support this?'”
He returned to the same point again, saying simply:
“This initiative is a lifeline to many Republican campaigns that they need to grab on to.”
Over the course of his interview, he convinced at least one person. Host Chuck Bonniwell introduced the last segment with Athanasopoulos by making his guest’s point for him:
We’re here with George Anthony was talking about a new initiative to mandate in the Colorado Constitution that you have to be a U.S. citizen to vote. And I think as George has indicated it can be used by candidates — certainly Republican candidates–to go after the Democratic ones who refuse to support the initiative.Chuck Bonniwell, KNUS radio host, July 29, 2019
The “Citizen Voter” initiative is part of a national effort to push these ballot initiatives. A Florida nonprofit called, Citizen Voters, Inc, which esssentially fully funded the signature gathering effort here in Colorado (spending $1.4M) is also supporting similar efforts in Florida, Alabama and other states. The Washington Post explored the group and its funders in a long feature over the summer called, “Secret donors and Trump allies: Inside the operation to push noncitizen voting laws in Florida and other states.”