DENVER - Signature forgers, you're safe for a few more months.
A bill at the State Capitol to keep your signature from being forged on petitions for candidates running for office, got delayed.
House Minority Leader, Rep. Patrick Neville, is sponsoring HB 17-1088, "Voter Signature Verification & Electronic Petition Pilot."
It would allow and require the Secretary of State to verify signatures on candidate petitions, similar to the four candidates who turned in petitions to qualify for the U.S. Senate ballot in 2016.
Last May, a Denver investigative reporter discovered a signature collector wrote the names, addresses and signatures for dozens of voters who never really signed the petitions themselves. It helped one of the candidates qualify for the ballot (long story short, he would have likely made the ballot regardless because he would have gone to court to get signatures reinstated that had been previously disqualified for technicalities).
"We only verify the address, the name and things of that nature, not the actual signature. All that stuff is public record. You can go in there and write in someone's address and scribble a signature. How would you know unless we actually do the verification?" said Neville.
Currently, the Secretary of State does not have authority to verify the signature was actually written by the person whose name appears on the petition. This bill would let the Secretary of State cross reference the signature on the petition with that voter's signature on file. The city of Denver currently does this, so it's possible.
The bill is in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee, which is often referred to as the "kill" committee, where bills go to die.
"This is where that should go. This bill should be in State Affairs," said Neville.
The bill was supposed to be debated on Thursday, but just before the committee hearing, the bill was pulled so lawmakers could tweak it some more.
It had already changed before today's scheduled hearing. The bill originally called for signature verification of candidate petitions AND issue petitions (like Amendments), but that would cost too much and not give enough time to correct or dispute any errors that are found. Essentially, the time frame between petitions being turned in and being certified for the election ballot, doesn't leave enough time to go back to a voter to confirm their signature is or is not their handwriting. So, the issue petitions are going to be removed from the bill.
"There was also a large fiscal note with having to do that with initiatives. The amendment basically reduces the fiscal note to practically nothing, so the Secretary of State thinks they can do it within current funds and not have to raise any additional revenue to accomplish this," said Neville. "If we get a good system in place for candidates, it's kind of a trial basis, we can, maybe, look at initiatives in the future, but that would be a separate issue."
The bill also called for a pilot program to collect petition signatures electronically, similar to how Denver collects signatures. That is also going to be removed from the bill for the time being.
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