Invalid Signatures Keep Colorado Personhood Off the Ballot in November

When you kick back a Coors, think about who’s beer you’re drinking

Horrified by the Republican platform as we are we sometimes laugh at them individually. There is a certain level of hilarity to be had from their complete denial of reality and watching them combat cognitive dissonance on a grand scale warms the cockles of my heart. Too, amid the bad news there is always some good.  Like the news yesterday from Colorado, the state Jason Salzman at RH Reality Check called “America’s personhood Petri Dish.”

Yes, women’s reproductive rights are alive in Colorado. There will be no third personhood amendment  on the ballot- not this year – not Initiative 46 – and not only because beer magnate Joe Coors declined to get behind this one. Two previous such amendments have been voted down at the polls: Amendment 48 in 2008 by 73-27 percent and Amendment 62 in 2010 by 70-30 percent.

This one would likely have gone the way of the buffalo as well; 100,000 fewer people voted personhood in 2010 than in 2008 so the writing was on the wall even in this Red State.  The amendment is a fanatic’s dream: “(1) Purpose. In order to affirm basic human dignity, be it resolved that the right to life in this constitution applies equally to all innocent persons. (2) Effect. The intentional killing of any innocent person is prohibited.”

Sarah Morice-Brubaker, an assistant professor of theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK, wrote at Religion Dispatches yesterday, there are some basic problems with the wording:

But the proposed text doesn’t define what to my theological ears is the more provocative term: “innocent.”

Presumably, its use here is meant to do several things: (1) portray the fetus as an agent with moral standing, one in need of protection; (2) allow for the taking of guilty human life (since many social conservatives support the death penalty while also being opposed to abortion); and (3) contrast the innocence of the fetus with the guilt of the father.  Indeed, on the last point, the amendment draws this contrast specifically: “No innocent child created through rape or incest shall be killed for the crime of his or her father.”

But notice, where rape and incest are concerned, it is only the fetus’ innocence that’s stipulated.

As Morice-Brubaker points out, they’re missing at least one innocent victim: “if I were talking about the innocent people injured by rape, I would eventually consider the person who was raped.”

Gone would be abortions in case of rape or incest or risk to the life of the mother, as well as in vitro for people like my family who through no fault of their own run the risk of conceiving children with life-threatening genetic defects. Republicans call punishing victims God’s will. They pretend to be championing the innocent but they froth at the mouth at the thought of slapping the innocent down in the name of the Almighty.

But it won’t go that far in 2012 because supporters failed to gather enough signatures, declared the Colorado Secretary of State’s office yesterday. Or rather, let me put it this way: they gathered enough signatures and turned them in on August 6, but not enough of those signatures were valid.

To be precise, according to LifeNews, “The amendment fell 3,859 signatures short of the requirement and will not be on the November ballot.”

That may not sound bad, but in reality it is much worse: You see, 86,105 signatures were required. They “got” 106,119, which is more than enough – if they are valid.

Which the state determined more than enough of them were not.

The State of Colorado rejected 23,873 signatures as invalid. By my math, that is 21 percent of the signatures.

That’s a lot of dishonesty or incompetence or I don’t know what. When the Colorado Personhood Coalition writes “Thanks to all who took part in this tremendous effort” are they thanking all those who put in extra time faking signatures? Of course, we don’t know yet why they were rejected but the Personhood folks think they can get them back.

LifeNews points out that the Colorado Personhood Coalition is going to file a protest (they have 30 days in which to do so by law):

“The law states that we have 30 days to file a challenge, and we fully intend to do so. Based on the Secretary of State’s 5% sample, we are have calculated that we will be able to recover the signatures necessary to appear on the ballot,” explained Gualberto Garcia Jones of the group. “This disqualification is by an extremely narrow number, and as we have seen thousands of valid voter signatures discarded unnecessarily, we will be filing a challenge to ensure that every Colorado voter’s voice is heard, and that every signature counts.”

As the New York Times says, Colorado Initiative 46 was “The nation’s only pending ballot measure to ban abortion in all circumstances” and now it’s floundered in a sea of dishonesty. It seems the dreams of patriarchy are coming a cropper – defeated in Mississippi, struck down in Oklahoma, defeated in the Rocky Mountain Evangelical Paradise of Colorado.

Joe Coors, not out of a sudden infusion of humanity, says he didn’t get behind this one because it’s the economy and jobs people are concerned about, not abortion. Mitt Romney says he’s pro life but his senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, reports ThinkProgress, “insisted that the general election should eschew social issues. Fehrnstrom also accused Democrats of using women’s reproductive health as ‘shiny objects’ to avoid discussing the economy.”

Shiny objects. The pro life movement is about shiny objects? Somehow, i don’t think they’d categorize themselves that way. Is this the true face of the Romney camp, a beat-down of an increasingly unpopular – if strident – social issue? It’s an interesting Etch A Sketch shake since Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, is an avowed supporter of personhood legislation on the national level. Having lost his rape argument is Ryan due now also to lose his abortion argument?

The news from Colorado when placed in the context of the Romney campaign’s position is significant. After all, it’s not Democrats who brought reproductive rights under attack, who advanced a culture war agenda of banning abortion in any and all circumstances. That would be the GOP, which has tried mightily since 2010 to strip women of rights where their own healthcare decisions are concerned. Has the GOP establishment, if not the religiously fevered base, admitted defeat?

Or has it realized that during this election it is necessary to narrow the focus of the campaign, and having forced Obama to speak out on social issues to pull the rug out from beneath him and accuse Obama of waging the culture war?

If abortion is a shiny object (if women’s reproductive rights are then right to life must be too), it is distracting more than liberal voters: it positively obsesses conservative voters, and Romney isn’t going to further endear himself to the Evangelicals behind the culture war by characterizing their cause as a glittering distraction without substance. He was on thin ground already, and conservatives more even than liberals ought to take notice.

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