On September 10th, Colorado will be holding its first ever state-level recalls against two Democratic state Senators, Senate President John Morse and Angela Giron, for their support for gun control legislation. Petitioners actually went after two other legislators and discussed recalling the Governor, but they failed to turn in petitions for those officials. In many ways, these recalls are different than most famous recalls of recent years against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and California Governor Gray Davis in that the primary goal here is symbolic. These recalls will not result in Republicans gaining control of the Senate (absent a Democratic Senator flipping parties). Morse is term-limited and out of office in 2014. Democrats are not actively looking to draft new gun control laws, and since the Democrats control the House and the Governor’s office, the laws will likely not be revoked until a new full election.
This recall is also what I would call a single-issue/interest group recall, which have their own history (I think in many ways the Walker recall can also be defined under this category) Yet, symbolic and interest group recalls can be very powerful, sending a message to other politicians not to mess with that specific issue. A look back at California in 1994 shows one example that the recall backers are certainly hoping will repeat.
The recall is also noteworthy because Colorado has become a purple state, one that may be deciding presidential elections in the future. Morse almost lost his race in 2010, and so his seat (caveats about how redistricting might affect this argument way below) may be a particularly good test of strength for the two parties and especially for how the issue of gun control/gun rights plays in the upcoming election. The Wisconsin recall did not seem to have any impact on 2012 — will it matter in 2014 and beyond or was it just a one time event? We can only be certain that both sides will try to spin the recall results to their own benefit.
The recalls have seen a massive amount of litigation, over issues such as whether an all mail-in ballot campaign may be used; the time that minor parties can use to get on the ballot; whether one part is unconstitutional. We are also, not surprisingly, seeing a lot of money being dropped into the race. And we’ve seen possibly cutting edge technology used to possibly reshape the way election are run (especially recalls and other ballot initiatives) going forward.