The first recall election in Colorado’s history will determine on Tuesday the fate of two Democratic lawmakers, Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo), who stand to lose their seats after voting for stricter gun laws earlier this year. But while national attention has focused on both recall fights as a referendum on gun control, anti-recall operatives say they’re battling an entirely different issue: Voting laws. Morse and Giron became the target of recall efforts after they supported a comprehensive gun control package that passed the state legislature in March. The reforms included background checks for all firearms purchases and a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 15 rounds. Gun rights advocates, bolstered by the National Rifle Association, initially sought to recall four Democrats but only collected the required signatures to challenge Morse and Giron. But as the recall fight reaches an end, several Democrats working on the ground told The Huffington Post that if either Morse or Giron is defeated, it will be because their opponents were able to suppress voter turnout by making it difficult for constituents to cast their ballots. Turnout is typically low in recall elections, but one Democratic official estimated turnout of less than 15 percent across both counties.
“That’s just astronomically low,” the official said. “It’s a race made up of an endless number of things that will just confuse voters and have an effect on the election itself.”
Much of the confusion stems from a decision that prohibited voting by mail, even though Colorado voters have overwhelmingly relied on mail-in ballots in the past. District Judge Robert McGahey ruled against the use of mail-in ballots last month, even though a state law passed earlier this year guaranteed a ballot by mail to every registered voter in Colorado, including in a recall election.
Ellen Dumm, an anti-recall operative stationed in Pueblo, said it wasn’t until about 10 days ago that the decision was overturned to allow some voters to cast their ballots by mail. But at that point, the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot was just four days away, which made it difficult to educate most of the public on the process.
The wrangling over voting by mail presents more of a problem for Morse, whose recall is in conservative-leaning El Paso County. Early voting shows registered Republican turnout well ahead of Democratic voters in Morse’s district.