How Personhood Measure's Loss Is Actually a Win and More Post-Election Spin

While most of the attention in regard to yesterday's election has gone to Cory Gardner's shellacking of Mark Udall and a governor's race not called in John Hickenlooper's favor until this morning, the outcomes for other measures on the ballot have been equally fascinating. Take the so-called personhood measure, which was soundly defeated for the fourth time in Colorado -- yet supporters of the initiative are still claiming victory. More about that effort and other outcomes below.

See also: Would Personhood Measure Amendment 67 Ban In Vitro Fertilization?

As our Jamie Swinnerton reported back in June, Amendment 67 read as follows:
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining "person" and "child" in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?
Proponents and opponents couldn't agree on just what the amendment would do if passed, even debating whether it might ban in vitro fertilization. But the argument was mooted by voters. Here are 7News figures with 92 percent of the vote counted: That margin qualifies as a landslide, yet Personhood USA's release about the vote declares a "pro-life victory in Colorado."

How so? Because in losing, the measure garnered 10 percent more votes than did the last one, as spelled out in the following excerpt:

Despite an overwhelming spending deficit, Amendment 67 defied the odds and increased Yes votes by 10 percentage points over the first personhood amendment attempt in the state in 2008. It appears that No on 67 outspent Yes on 67 by about 1300 to 1. While final financial reports have not yet been posted, Planned Parenthood alone has indicated a $15-$20 million dollar effort nationwide to squash pro-life issues and candidates, previously promising at least $3.8 million to defeat Amendment 67 in Colorado.

"We are proud to have run an honest, hard-fought campaign," stated Jennifer Mason, Personhood USA Communications Director. "With a major grassroots effort, Personhood USA was able to counter the lies of the opposition with enough voters to see a larger percentage of voters vote for life than in any other previous Colorado election. It is becoming apparent that Planned Parenthood is forced to spend enormous amounts of money to mislead voters in order to win, and I'm sure they are afraid to face us again in the future as voters are beginning to see through their lies."
Striking a similar tone was Heather Surovik, the face of the amendment owing to a 2012 accident when she was eight-months pregnant; she lost the baby, who she named Brady, yet the drunk driver who caused the wreck wasn't charged with killing him. Surovik's statement reads: "I'd like to express my deepest thanks to the many, many volunteers who stood up to be a voice for my son Brady. No mother should be told that her child was not a person, and that his life doesn't matter, as I was told. Brady was a person, and his life does matter. Now that Colorado voters have seen Brady's face, and know who he was, my hope is that our message will change Colorado law in the future so that pregnant women and their children will be protected."

Will a personhood measure appear on the 2016 ballot in Colorado? Our money's on "Hell yes it will."

Also implying moral victory were the folks behind the GMO food-labeling-inspired Proposition 105, albeit with a certain magnanimity. The campaign's statement reads: "This was our first time out. We will have over a half a million votes when all the ballots are counted. We have started the conversation about our food system and transparency here in #Colorado. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your sincere dialogue even if you did not vote yes." The backers of Amendment 68, which would have added a limited gaming facility at Arapahoe Park's horse racetrack, don't parse the difference between winning and losing to quite this degree. A statement from Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Coloradans for Better Schools (so-named because K-12 education would have received funding from the new addition), accepted the defeat, saying in part that "a vigorous campaign was waged on both sides; now Colorado voters have spoken and with their votes have said that they prefer the status quo.

"Horse racing will continue at Arapahoe Park and the company will continue to be a good neighbor as it always has been," she added. "The company will continue to work with the education community in Colorado in an effort to find ways to improve education in the state."

Finally, Proposition 104, a measure promoting open school-board meetings, won by approximately 70-30 percent. But in her statement, Dr. Ranelle Lang, spokesperson for Local Schools, Local Choices, the campaign opposed to Proposition 104, couldn't help arguing that the state's voters had been bamboozled.

"Coloradans have always valued transparency in their government, so it's no surprise that they support open school board negotiations, too," she writes on behalf of 104 haters such as the Colorado Education Association and the Colorado Association of School Boards. "But this measure's vague wording will leave many school districts unclear on what will now be expected of them. At a time when school districts across the state are struggling to educate rapidly growing populations of school-age children in Colorado, this measure could take money out of the classroom to pay for the legal counsel needed to help navigate and comply with this new mandate."

In other words: You blew it, suckers. And so ends another Colorado election.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts