Democrats this week unveiled legislation that aims to correct some of the legal conflicts revealed last summer during recall elections of two Senate Democrats that nullified mail balloting and contributed to the Democrats’ loss. During an impromptu media availability hosted by Senate Democrats on Monday, lawmakers proposed a measure that would modify a provision in state statute that allows a person to petition onto a recall election ballot 15 days before the election date. The provision was highlighted during a Denver District Court case this summer challenging the recall elections of then-Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and then-Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. Both lawmakers were subsequently ousted from office for their support of gun control after the court allowed the elections to continue. The Libertarian Party of Colorado filed the lawsuit, arguing that they had not missed a 10-day deadline to submit signatures in order to petition a successor candidate onto the ballot. The case pointed out that state law mandates that ballots be mailed no later than 18 days before the election. But the state constitution requires that successor candidates have up to 15 days before the election to submit signatures.
Judge Robert McGahey agreed that there would be no way for clerks to mail ballots 18 days before the election if candidates have until 15 days before the recall election to submit signatures. The result was that successor candidates had additional time to petition onto the ballot, but that an all-mail election would be impossible.
Democrats tend to benefit from all-mail elections in terms of getting out the vote. Democrats panicked a bit when recall mail ballots were nullified, resorting to such measures as bussing college students and senior citizens in Colorado Springs to the polls.
The proposal unveiled this week aims to correct the conflict that nullified mail ballots by defining the day the governor calls the election as the first day of voting, rather than the last day of voting. The idea is to give candidates the ability to petition onto the ballot 15 days before the first day of voting and provide clerks with more time to print and send ballots, as well as conduct in-person polling.