Organizers can now collect signatures for ballot measures via email, mail, Polis says in new orders

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed executive orders that will make it easier to collect signatures for ballot measures, handing a significant win to organizers who have been stunted in their efforts by the pandemic.

The orders authorize the secretary of state to create temporary rules so signatures for ballot issues can be collected by mail or email. Previously, collecting signatures meant a petition circulator would have to do this in person.

“This Executive Order protects Coloradans’ constitutional right to shape their government through the initiative and referendum processes without risking their health or the health of others,” Polis wrote.

The governor also signed an order allowing unaffiliated and independent candidates to gather signatures via mail or email.

The fate of several major ballot measures — including paid family leave — have been hanging in the balance, given the constraints of getting signatures during stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures.

The urgency was particularly acute because it’s a presidential year, which brings the highest turnout, especially among unaffiliated and Democratic voters.

Changing the rules so close to an election has been a touchy subject during the past several weeks, with some saying it was necessary during this unprecedented time and others arguing it could open a Pandora’s box.

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New York couples can now tie the knot over Zoom

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an order allowing online marriages, as many weddings are cancelled under lockdown restrictions.

From now on, New Yorkers will be able to apply for marriage licences remotely and clerks will be allowed to conduct ceremonies virtually.

Mr Cuomo joked that the decision meant there was now “no excuse” for couples not to tie the knot.

“You can do it by Zoom. Yes or no?” he said in his briefing on Saturday.

The decision comes after the state extended lockdown measures until 15 May. More than 13,000 people have died of coronavirus in New York city alone.

Social media reaction to the decision was mixed.

Some questioned why couples would choose to hold weddings when their families and friends are unable to join them, or criticised the governor for not prioritising other decisions.

But others pointed out that during a pandemic, marriage could offer practical benefits, such as allowing couples to share health insurance coverage.

How have engaged couples coped with lockdowns?

Some people have already turned to online celebrations to mark what would have been their special day.

But unless the weddings have been arranged in advance – and both their venues and officiants are still available despite lockdown – many of these ceremonies are not legally binding.

New York isn’t the first place to turn to the internet to offer a legal solution.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently announced that citizens and residents would be allowed to get married online, after the justice ministry created a website for couples to submit required documents. A virtual ceremony, complete with a registrar and witnesses, can then take place.

Similar measures have been introduced in the US state of Colorado, where couples are being allowed to apply for marriage licences online.

Meanwhile, one county in Ohio is allowing people to obtain marriage licences online in specific circumstances, such as when one of the partners is a health care worker, suffers from a serious illness or has health insurance issues.

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Coronavirus support package rejigs benefits for workers hit by pandemic

The Liberals are repackaging two previously promised benefits for Canadians whose working lives are disrupted by the new coronavirus pandemic.

And that change will almost double direct spending in the government’s economic plan to $52 billion.

Combining the two benefits into one will mean a $2,000 per month payment for up to four months to workers whose income drops to zero because of the pandemic, including if they have been furloughed by their employers but technically still have jobs.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the measure allows companies to temporarily let go of workers to cut payroll costs and leave money in the affected employees’ pockets.

“Companies don’t need to separate their employee from their company. They just need to say, ‘we can’t pay you during this time period.’ And when that happens, there is a direct wage subsidy to people, to employees so that they can actually live their lives,” he said.

“When this is done, they can go back to work for their employers and that we think is critically important.”

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