‘Personhood’ Measure May Lack Signatures

The so-called “personhood” effort, which would ludicrously define a fertilized egg as a “person” with full legal rights, submitted signatures for the 2010 ballot on February 12. The number of valid signatures may fall short of the legally required minimum, and, should the Secretary of State declare as much, the group will have an additional fifteen days to try to close the gap.

I imagine no one in the state is happier about the measure’s potential demise than Republican strategists, who are busily attempting to persuade voters that this year’s election is about jobs, not the GOP’s promiscuous relationship with the religious right.

I knew the effort was in trouble when, the day before the deadline, thePersonhood CO web page announced the group still needed “hundreds of signatures” to make the ballot.

Keith Mason of Personhood USA put a happy face on the effort in a February 12 media release, completely ignoring the likely problem of invalid names. Mason announced, “The signatures submitted totaled 79,817, although only 76,047 were required.” The release claims, “Once the signatures are verified by the Colorado Secretary of State, the amendment will be placed on the 2010 ballot and put to a vote.”

Wendy Norris offers a more realistic assessment at RH [Reproductive Health] Reality Check:

Tyler Chafee, senior associate with RBI Strategies and Research, said, “There is very little chance that voters will be seeing this measure on the 2010 ballot.”

State initiatives generally try to collect 30 percent more signatures than required to cover the expected names that are disqualified because they are not registered voters. Chafee predicts the latest attempt by anti-choice activists will fall about 13,000 signatures short. He based his estimate on the same signature approval rate, a relatively high 79 percent ratio, on the group’s 2008 petitions. In that campaign, more than 131,000 names were submitted to the Colorado Secretary of State, almost double the required number and 50,000 more than this go-around.

Norris also explains what happens next:

Now, the secretary of state’s office now has 30 days to verify that the petition signatures are from legally registered voters. … Should the campaign come up short, proponents will have an additional 15 days to secure the remaining signatures needed.

But based on the daily signature gathering rate over the 172 days they circulated petitions through Friday’s deadline, the group would have to get new names at twice that clip to reach the estimated 13,000 deficit within two weeks.

Aside from her wishy-washy comment that the measure “just goes too far,” Amanda Mountjoy of the Republican Majority for Choice released an admirably strong condemnation of the proposal:

Today [February 12] marks a setback in our state’s efforts to overcome the wave of big government intrusion and waste sweeping our nation. The problem with the “personhood” amendment lies in its fundamental contradiction. It poses as a measure designed to protect basic rights. In fact, personhood would violate the rights of Colorado women by granting competing rights to a fertilized egg, and would put government smack dab in the middle of medical decisions ranging from birth control, to in-vitro fertilization, to miscarriages, and abortion.

As Republicans, we cannot sit by while single-issue fundamentalists dramatically change our state constitution. We are already disheartened over the creation of new big government bureaucracies in Washington, DC. We will not allow those same intrusions to take hold in our state and hand over government control on such private decisions.

The media coverage of the measure reveals a great deal about the motives of its supporters. I will write a subsequent post about that. For now, though, I hold out hope that the measure won’t make the ballot. I have plenty of battles to fight already!

For background, see the paper on the 2008 measure:
Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters That a Fertilized Egg Is Not a Person