Carlo Scarsella is well-equipped to discuss Colorado ballot measures.

(Megan Verlee/CPR News)

They may be as ubiquitous as shopping carts outside the grocery stores where they set up shop, but signature collectors like Carlo Scarsella play an important role in the political process.

For years, Scarsella, who lives in Lakewood, has been one of the most prolific collectors in Colorado. Today, he's gathering signatures for six different potential ballot initiatives, ranging from possible presidential and state primaries to whether there should be a new $1.75 cigarette tax to assist the state with health care issues.

Scarsella has been doing this work for a long time. "I talked one day to a petitioner, and then talked to Scott Lamm, the son of the former governor, who owns a petitioning company," Scarsella said. "That was in about 2009; I (collect signatures) in the spring and summer. I used to teach school in Jefferson County, so I had to work in the summer. I was pretty good, so soon my name started getting around to other companies."

Scarsella says times have changed in the signature collection game, in part because some places became skittish a few years ago when marijuana initiatives started circulating in the metro area.

"Now at most places you have to have permission from the corporate offices to set up outside," he said. "In California you can go anywhere -- a Target, a library, a grocery store --and they can't stop you. The access isn't very good in Colorado anymore."