UPDATE, March 4, 4:45 p.m.:
Lauren Castillo, a spokesperson for Due Date Too Late, told the Colorado Times Recorder that the campaign turned in over 138,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday, and that she’s confident the initiative will make the ballot in spite of the relatively small number of extra signatures collected to act as a cushion for those deemed invalid.
“In the case of a cure period, our group is ready for any of the challenges that come, and there’s been so much momentum in those last 6 days,” Castillo said, referencing their push to collect as many signatures as possible at churches across the state on Ash Wednesday.
Deacon Geoff Bennet, a spokesperson for Catholic Charities of Denver, however, was reluctant to say he was confident.
“I don’t know that I’d say I’m confident,” Bennet told the Colorado Times Recorder. “We’re hopeful it does [make the ballot], but we already have a plan in place that if it doesn’t, we have teams to mobilize and get the signatures we need.”
Bennet said that if the campaign is granted a cure period, they’re looking into how to expand their signature-gathering efforts beyond churches.
“We’re looking at showing up at various events across Colorado,” he said. “We hit churches pretty hard, so now where else are you gonna go? We already have people doing research on that type of stuff.”
“As of today, it’s still unclear whether they have the signatures for this abortion ban,” Jack Teter, the Colorado political director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told the Colorado Times Recorder. “If they are successful in getting enough signatures to put another abortion ban on the ballot, we are confident that voters would reject that ban as they have rejected three previous abortion bans by huge margins.”
Teter emphasized that a 22-week abortion ban in Colorado would have huge implications for those who might receive a devastating fetal diagnosis late in pregnancy.
“This proposal would force a woman who learns later in her pregnancy that her pregnancy is developing with no brain or no lungs to pack a suitcase and get on an airplane and leave her family and her community and her support system behind to travel to another state that doesn’t criminalize access to healthcare,” Teter said. “This measure has no exceptions for rape and incest, it has no exceptions for maternal health, and that is cruel and unconscionable and that’s an abortion ban voters aren’t going to support.”
An effort to place an initiative banning abortion at 22 weeks on Colorado’s November ballot could be on thin ice.
Proponents of Initiative 120 must turn in at least 124,632 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office today in order for the initiative to be placed on the state’s November ballot. In a press release, the group behind the measure, dubbed “Due Date Too Late,” said they’ve collected 135,000 total signatures.
“We have gained more than the minimum number of signatures required, all from volunteer circulators, as a part of a grassroots bi-partisan effort to save lives from late-term abortion,” said Lauren Castillo, spokesperson for Due Date Too Late. The release noted that 43,000 of those signatures were collected in the last 6 days, and that 11 percent of the total number were from Democrats.
But the question remains whether enough of those signatures are valid — something which the Secretary of State’s office will determine once the campaign submits its petitions.
It’s common for ballot initiative campaigns to submit more than the required number of signatures in order to account for invalid signatures, but compared to past abortion ban initiatives, it doesn’t appear that Due Date Too Late has enough of a cushion to inspire confidence that they’ll make the ballot.
Between 2008 and 2014, when anti-abortion advocates in Colorado pushed ballot measures to define life as beginning at conception, thereby banning all abortion, the rate of valid signatures submitted to the Secretary of State’s office was between 75 and 81 percent.
If Due Date Too Late does, in fact, have 135,000 signatures, they’d need a validity rate of over 92 percent.
“Coloradans have repeatedly rejected abortion bans at the ballot box. It appears this one may be insufficient given the number of valid signatures needed,” said Karen Middleton of the reproductive rights advocacy organization Cobalt (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado). “Regardless, we are prepared to let our members know that any attempt to restrict abortion access in Colorado is not acceptable and will not pass.”
The Secretary of State’s office must validate signatures within 30 days. Depending on the office’s findings, proponents of the initiative could be granted a 15-day period to cure signatures that are deemed invalid.