Facing a signature squeeze 

In Colorado, political candidates who get at least 30 percent of the vote at their party assembly earn a spot on the primary ballot. Those getting at least 10 percent can still petition on, often with a month or more to gather the necessary signatures.

But this year's election schedule is tight, says El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams. If a viable candidate falls short at the county's March 29 Republican assembly, he or she will have just two days to gather up to 11,000 signatures from registered voters.

The state schedule is even crazier. Those signatures are also due March 31, nearly two weeks before the April 12 state assemblies. So, Williams says, "You have to turn in your petitions before you even go there."

The schedule has some candidates gathering signatures before they even know if they really have to. And it all stems, Williams says, from the primary being moved up from August to June 24. Petitions must be submitted 85 days before the primary.

"It was a legislative decision based on a number of things, including the requirement to mail ballots to military voters at least 45 days in advance" of the general election, he says. "If you ran into a recount in a primary, you literally might not have a decision to be able to print the ballot for the general."

The number of signatures needed is set by the previous election for that race. County GOP candidates facing the highest thresholds are the three vying for sheriff: John Anderson, Bill Elder and Jim Reid. Each would need 11,093 signatures by March 31.

The number is 9,228 in the two-way Republican race for clerk and recorder, and 9,411 in the three-way race for treasurer. (There are no contests for Democratic nominations in the county.)

At the state level, Amy Stephens (pictured) and Owen Hill are gathering signatures in the GOP race for U.S. Senate. And at least one Republican candidate for governor, Steve House, is doing the same.

"We'll make sure we're on the ballot with the petitions, then we'll get the political sanction at the assembly," says political consultant Patrick Davis. He adds, ominously, "I think the [Republican] party is going to get sued by a candidate who can't get the signatures."


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