A fetal image from the Personhood USA website.
A fetal image from the Personhood USA website.

Personhood Amendment forces hit the streets after coming up short on signatures

Last month, we chatted with Personhood USA spokesman Keith Mason, who was excited that his organization had collected enough signatures to put an initiative establishing person status from the beginning of a human being's biological development before Colorado voters in November.

Granted, a similar measure was trounced back in 2008. But Mason stressed that even if that happened again this year, "we're going to keep fighting until we win."

This spirit will come in handy now that Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher has invalidated thousands of signatures in favor of the amendment -- enough to make it fall short of the required 76,047 needed to make the ballot. And Mason stresses that the troops have already mobilized to meet the standard by a new deadline, March 18.

"We pretty much expected this after we turned the signatures in," Mason says. "We turned in 79,000 and change, but we didn't stop, we didn't take a break. We just started preparing and getting organized for what we like to call 'the overtime period.'"

That doesn't mean Personhood USA minions have been rounding up signatures in the interim: "They wouldn't have been valid," Mason confirms. However, he continues, "we've been getting commitments from the over-1,000 people who circulated before to get signatures again. And we already have commitments from over 750 of those volunteers, who'll be hitting the streets in the next two weeks."

Indeed, he says, "there's over a hundred people on the streets right now getting signatures."

Why did Personhood supporters fall short the first time? In part, Mason blames a late date switch.

"They sent us a memo fifteen days before the due date, saying that based on a clerical error on their part, they were cutting our time short. We thought our deadline was February 15, which would have translated to February 16, because the 15th was a holiday [Presidents Day] -- and holidays are always good for collecting signatures, because more people are out and about. But instead, we had to finish by the 12th, and that meant we couldn't go to a lot of churches we'd planned to visit over the weekend. But now, we can go to those churches that we didn't get to" on top of collecting signatures in other settings.

With 15,690 valid signatures needed, Mason says volunteers hope to gather over 20,000 more, to build in a considerable cushion to make up for possible invalidations. And he thinks the looming deadline may actually turn out to be a positive.

"We have a short amount of time, so procrastination isn't an option," he says. "People are fired up and ready to get signatures. There's a real passion about this, and we're within striking distance."

They'd better be, because Buescher's office is keeping a close eye on every scrawl, as indicated in the press release below:

Initiative 25 deemed insufficient

Final ballot initiative fails to reach required number of valid signatures

Denver, Colorado -- [Wednesday] Secretary of State Bernie Buescher announced that the proposed ballot measure concerning "Definition of Person" was found to be insufficient as required by statute. Petitions were submitted to the Secretary of State's office on February 12.

Secretary of State staff immediately began verifying a random sample of the signatures. This five-percent sample is selected by computer. The results are as follows:

Random Sample Summary:

Total number of qualified signatures submitted: 79,648

5% of qualified signatures submitted (random sample): 4,000

Total number of entries accepted (valid) from random sample: 3,031

Total number of entries rejected (invalid) from random sample: 969

Number of projected valid signatures from random sample: 60,357

Total number of accepted entries necessary for placement on ballot: 76,047

Percentage of presumed valid signatures: 79.37%

After review of the submitted petition sections as provided in section 1-40-116, C.R.S., Buescher declared that an insufficient number of valid signatures have been submitted.

The Secretary of State's office has notified the proponents the petition failed to qualify for the 2010 ballot and those proponents will have another 15 days to collect additional signatures to cure the deficiency. The proponents will have until 3:00pm Thursday, March 18 to submit additional signatures.

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