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Local citizens initiate petition PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

100,000 signatures needed for Restoring Colorado issue

In an effort to get the Colorado representation issue on the ballot this November, local citizens have initiated a petition drive, as announced at a press conference Thursday, May 15.

At least 100,000 signatures across the state of Colorado are needed to meet the goal for the petition, with a deadline of Aug. 1.

Leading the ballot issue and a newly formed Restoring Colorado Committee are Randy Schafer, Phillips County administrator, and Joe Kinnie, Phillips County commissioner and semi-retired farmer/rancher.

The two men clarified they are acting as private citizens in this grassroots effort to get the issue on the ballot through a petition drive.

The initiative hopes to change the way Colorado citizens elect members to the House of Representatives. Just like the U.S. Senate has the same number of senators for each state, the idea is to have one representative from each county in the Colorado House, instead of electing representatives based on population.

That would give the Colorado House 64 representatives, one less than it currently has.

“We don’t have a voice now, and this would give us a voice,” said Schafer.

He explained the high-population area of Colorado is along the Front Range, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. What has been dubbed as “Other Colorado” includes all the areas outside that Front Range, which encompasses both rural and urban communities.

“Other Colorado feels like we aren’t heard in our Legislature,” said Schafer.

Of the 65 current House representatives, about 12 of them represent Other Colorado. Larger urban areas have enough votes to pass legislation without any votes from smaller rural communities—the tyranny of the majority.

To help restore fair representation for all of Colorado, participants are needed from every corner of the state. “It’s a huge effort,” said Schafer. “It takes a great deal of time and effort to circulate a petition.”

The Restoring Colorado Committee is distributing the petition, and since this is a grassroots effort, they cannot pay people to help with it. Donations are needed for the cost of printing the petitions, mailing them to interested parties around the state and holding committee meetings.

Each petition packet contains information about the issue as well as space for 52 signatures from registered voters.

The minimum number of valid signatures needed statewide is 86,105 to get the issue on the ballot, but the committee is aiming for at least 100,000 since some names will end up being invalid when they are officially reviewed.

Signers can check how they are registered at govotecolorado.com.

Citizens can join the local Restoring Colorado Committee at any time, and current members include Joe Kinnie, Randy and Joy Schafer, Keith and Diane Sagehorn, Nancy Berges, Gene and Rita Kleve and Jeffrey Hare.

They are encouraging citizens in other counties to form their own committees in an effort to circulate the petition around the state. They have also started out by contacting some of the major commodity groups in Colorado for their support.

Kinnie pointed out that almost 45,000 Coloradans voted in favor of the secession question put on the ballot in 11 counties last year, so if all of them signed the petition, they would be halfway to their goal.

Talk of secession is what started this process of finding a way to give rural Colorado a stronger voice in the Legislature.

“Secession is pretty extreme,” said Schafer. “We began to look for a different alternative.”

What has been called the Phillips Proposal is Schafer’s idea to model the Colorado House like the U.S. Senate, with one representative per county.

“Out of desperation, we didn’t know what else to do,” said Kinnie, explaining that the issue of Senate Bill 252 on renewable energy was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“There’s a whole gamut of things that do not represent our rural way of life,” said Kinnie. “Nothing gets done at the Capitol. The only way to get anything done is a citizen’s initiative.”

A ballot initiative is necessary because a House concurrent resolution that was submitted by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg during the 2014 legislative session was killed in committee by the majority party (who primarily represent urban communities) along party lines.

The ballot proposal is the exact language of Sonnenberg’s resolution that was prepared by Colorado legislative staff. There is nothing in either the U.S. Constitution or the Colorado state constitution that prevents this change in representation.

If the issue goes to ballot and passes, the change would take effect in January 2017.

The petition is in its infant stage right now, and the committee is looking for all the help it can get. “We’re in an uphill battle, and we need an army of volunteers,” said Schafer.

For more information about the committee or to get a petition packet, contact Schafer at 970-520-0502 or Kinnie at 970-520-1475.

The committee also has a website at www.RestoringColorado.org.



Holyoke Enterprise May 22, 2014