Skip to contents
Opinion Columns

Opinion: Problems with Colorado’s petition process are as common as elections themselves

The legislature must look at removing the profit motive from signature-gathering ahead of the 2020 elections

I must admit I have been following The Colorado Sun’s coverage of the Kennedy trial with more than a little interest. 

You see, my campaign for governor last year was right in the middle of the signature gathering mess that started it all. And I took more than a little heat from my party for going public with what we learned about the Kennedy team’s efforts.

Doug Robinson

I believe it only makes sense for me to share some observations and perhaps a solution that the legislature should consider.

My campaign certainly did not go looking for irregularities in Kennedy’s petition-gathering effort. But their violations of the rules surrounding the process were carried out with such flagrant transparency that they could hardly be ignored.

Eventually this fell into my lap and my campaign discussed, debated and deliberated about what to do with this information for some time. Finally, we decided that these particular violations were simply too egregious to be kept quiet.

We shared what we had learned publicly. Walker Stapleton did the right thing by recognizing the problems in his signature-gathering effort and electing to withdraw his petitions and go through the convention process.

Problems with the petition process have become as common as elections themselves. So what can we do to fix it? The original purpose of the petition process was to have a statewide candidate demonstrate broad support by gathering 1,500 signatures in each congressional district, a difficult task.

Overlooked in the beginning, though, was the profit motive that would drive businesses to form to gather signatures on a paid basis.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Whether this be for a candidate’s full effort or to supplement a volunteer effort, as in my case. Hiring a firm to collect the needed signatures is basically a matter of money.

Walker and I each spent over $200,000 on our signature-gathering efforts. An amount of money that virtually assures a candidate will be on the ballot.

Rather than a candidate giving $200,000 to a private vendor to assure their place on the ballot, why not cut out the middleman and give a portion of that money directly to the state and or the party?

Just as with the current presidential candidate requirements to appear in debates, we could have a threshold for money raised and number of unique donors from around the state, and position in statewide polling to show strong support.

The current petition system could remain in place as an option to allow grassroots candidates access to the ballot, but removing the opportunity to profit from the process would also remove the incentive that private companies currently have to skirt the rules.

Whatever the solution, the legislature should ensure that these reforms are in place for our 2020 races.

Doug Robinson was a GOP candidate for governor in 2018.

The Colorado Sun has no paywall, meaning readers do not have to pay to access stories. We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable.

This reporting depends on support from readers like you. For just $5/month, you can invest in an informed community.