The Colorado House of Representatives passed, on a 37-28 party-line vote, a bill that will allow citizens to cast remote ballots in recall elections. Senate Bill 158 was being pushed by Democrats angered by the recalls last year of state Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse, who were voted out of office after their support for gun-control measures. A third Democratic senator, Evie Hudak, resigned rather than face a recall battle. Morse and Giron were removed after voter turnouts of 21 and 36 percent, respectively. Democrats argue that the outcome was, at least in part, the result of recall election laws, which effectively required voters to physically turn in ballots on a single day.
Century-old elections language sparked a fiery partisan debate in the Colorado Senate on Thursday as Democrats steered through an update to recall laws despite complaints that they’re trying to change the rules in their favor. The bill updates dusty recall requirements that were written long before modern elections procedures such as mail-in voting. The bill was approved on an unrecorded voice vote and faces a more formal vote before heading to the House. Democrats say the bill is not an attempt to make it harder to recall public officials, even though two of their own were ousted last year in the first state legislator recalls in Colorado’s history.
Democrats moved forward Friday with a measure they say will boost voter turnout in recall elections, despite strong opposition from Republicans assailing it as unconstitutional. The legislation looks to harmonize language in state statute with Colorado’s constitution in regard to the recall election process. Under the constitution, a candidate has up to 15 days before Election Day to submit signatures so that the candidate’s name can appear on the recall ballot.
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.
With last year’s recall elections fresh in their minds, leading Democrats in the Colorado Senate laid out a case for changes in state laws governing recall elections. Democrats insisted their aim was to clear up confusion about how recalls work and encourage more voter participation, saying nothing in the bill they’re introducing would make it tougher to attempt to recall a public official in Colorado. “As to the ability to actually recall someone or whether it’s harder or easier, it’s agnostic on that,” said Senate President Morgan Carroll. “It’s neutral. It doesn’t really affect that.”
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz and Republican lawmakers often don’t see eye to eye on election issues, but they do on one: The state ought to pay the cost of last year’s recall elections in Pueblo and El Paso counties. New state Sens. George Rivera, R-Pueblo, and Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs, have signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Scott Gessler this week that insists the state should cover the $270,000 it cost Pueblo County and the $150,000 it cost El Paso County to conduct the special elections last year. Those recall races ousted Democratic state Sens. Angela Giron, of Pueblo, and John Morse, of Colorado Springs. Rivera and Herpin were elected to replace them.
Editorials: Colorado’s terrible election law has real-world consequences | Jon Caldara/Greeley Tribune
I’m not going to jail, at least not for voting. That means good news for me, and a chance to keep Coloradans’ trust in our election results, but only if the new General Assembly is willing to act on the terrible election law passed last year. While anti-gun legislation dominated the media during the last Colorado legislative session, the most dangerous bill passed was a revamp of our voting laws. Thanks to House Bill 1303, Colorado is now the poster child for sloppy election law. Not only does a cable TV or phone bill serve as a valid form of voter identification, but we’re also the only state in the country that has both all mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration. Under the new law our ballots, including yours, are flung through the mail like grocery-store coupons, whether you want them delivered that way to you or not. As the news site CompleteColorado.com reported, ballots in the last election were readily found in trash cans and apartment mail rooms, just ready to be harvested.
Colorado: No charges against activist who voted in recall to point out flaws in Colorado law | The Gazette
The Attorney General’s Office will not charge Jon Caldara for voting in the September recall election of Sen. John Morse, despite what investigators deemed extremely suspect behavior. Caldara, a longtime Boulder resident and a Republican, used a new same-day registration law to register to vote in El Paso County and cast a ballot in the recall election. Caldara told the media that he was voting to prove a point: that the Democrats’ new election law was flawed and allowed voters to move from district to district and vote in close elections with little recourse. “It’s not a big surprise. I wasn’t worried about it,” Caldara said of the decision. “This law was created to legalize voter mischief. It was created so that voters could be moved around into districts where their vote was most needed at the very last moment of the campaign. All I did was to make public what happens privately.”
The Colorado Election Law, HB13-1303 Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act of 2013, passed in haste last legislative session on a straight party-line vote (the Senate sponsors of the bill, Angela Giron and John Morse, were subsequently removed from office in Colorado’s first legislative recall elections in state history) has once again been challenged in court. The Libertarian Party of Colorado, joined by several individual plaintiffs, filed suit in Denver District Court (Saturday, 2 November 2013) seeking to ensure that voters in this year’s coordinated (nonpartisan) municipal and special-district (including school board) elections were able to vote – and only able to vote – on those races for which they were eligible under state statute and the provisions of the Colorado Constitution.
The Colorado Supreme Court has reaffirmed its decision in two Colorado legislative recall elections that voters do not have to first vote “yes” or “no” on the recall to have their votes for a successor validated. The Colorado high court said Monday a state constitutional requirement that voters must first vote on the recall before voting for a candidate violates rights to voting and expression under the U.S. Constitution. The court’s written ruling came in response to a question from Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
When a pair of Colorado lawmakers were recalled last month in a referendum on gun control, opponents had this to console them: At least, they said, the twin defeats did not alter the balance of power in Denver, the state capital. Now gun rights advocates are looking to change that. Organizers have received official go-ahead to start gathering signatures in a bid to oust state Sen. Evie Hudak, a Democrat from the Denver suburb of Westminister, who was the target of a failed recall petition drive earlier this year. The group, certified by Colorado’s secretary of State, has until Dec. 3 to collect just over 18,900 signatures to force a vote. The stakes: control of the state Senate, which Democrats hold by a tenuous 18-17 edge. Hudak, who is in her second term, was one of four lawmakers originally targeted after the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a series of sweeping gun controls in response to mass shootings last year in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. The measures, signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, include a requirement for universal background checks and a limit on ammunition magazines like the one used in the July 2012 theater shootings in Aurora, another suburb of Denver.
The final results are in for the recall election of Senate President John Morse — and it was a squeaker. With additional ballots counted, it turns out that Morse lost by just 319 votes. With the deadline for receiving military and overseas ballots passed, all possible remaining legal votes in the Senate District 11 Recall Election have been collected and tabulated. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office announces the official final result of the election as follows: The final results include an additional 76 ballots from military and overseas voters and 22 polling place provisional ballots that were counted after signatures were verified.
Last week, in a first for the state of Colorado, two state legislators were recalled by their constituents. Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were sent packing in large part due to their votes in favor of new gun laws passed and signed into law earlier this year. As I’ve noted elsewhere (here and here), recall elections are a rarity in the United States, but they’re becoming increasingly common. There have only been 38 state legislative recall elections since states first began adopting the procedure in 1908. Seventeen of those—nearly half—have occurred just since 2010. And some of them, particularly the recent Colorado ones, would have to be labeled as political successes for their backers. A vocal and passionate minority (in this case, gun owners) wanted to punish some lawmakers for their votes and send a message of intimidation to others. They did that. My guess is that the recall will only become more popular in the coming years. Now, I remember quite a few people predicting the same thing after the successful 2003 recall of California Governor Gray Davis. In fact, it would be another five years before anyone would attempt to recall a state legislator, and another three years after that until an attempt to unseat another governor. Why would it not catch on then but catch on now?
About 268 voters registered to vote or changed their address through election day to vote in the Senate District 11 successful recall of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. The historic recall elections Tuesday in El Paso and Pueblo counties were the first under a new law that allows election day address changes and voter registration. Christy Le Lait, who ran Morse’s campaign to stay in office, said a stunt illustrating how to abuse that law that was covered widely by the media has cast a pall of doubt over those votes. “What is real, what isn’t, what’s fraud?” Le Lait asked. “I don’t even know how you start to look at that.” Morse, the sitting Senate president, was removed from office by 343 votes in the special election taken to the ballot by citizens angered by stricter gun laws who signed a recall petition. Le Lait said there are no plans to challenge the election results, which could be certified any day.
Two Colorado Democrats who provided crucial support for a package of state gun laws were voted out of office on Tuesday in special elections seen as a test of whether swing-state voters would accept gun restrictions after mass shootings at a Colorado movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. The vote, which came five months after the United States Senate defeated several gun restrictions, handed another loss to gun-control supporters and gave moderate lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws. The immediate effect of the recalls — the first of their kind in Colorado — was to remove two state senators, Angela Giron of Pueblo and John Morse of Colorado Springs, and replace them with Republicans. Although the election was confined to two small districts in Southern Colorado and does not repeal Colorado’s gun laws or change partisan control of the General Assembly, both sides spent heavily and campaigned fiercely, fighting to prevail in what analysts called a proxy battle between gun-control advocates and the National Rifle Association.
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.
Gov. John Hickenlooper is the latest to weigh in with concerns about Jon Caldara’s residency switch Saturday so he could vote in the recall election of Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs. Caldara, a longtime Boulder resident, said he was was trying to make a point that a new election law passed by Democrats and signed into law by Hickenlooper in May undid residency requirements that had been in Colorado law for years. “We are hearing disturbing reports that some people are being encouraged to go to the polls, not to legitimately vote, but to disrupt the process,” Hickenlooper said in a statement issued today. “That would be unlawful and makes a mockery of the democratic process. We urge the county clerks in Pueblo and El Paso counties to make clear that people engaged in attempting to disrupt the elections are open to criminal prosecution. We’ve also reached out to the attorney general to help us ensure fair elections take place this week.” Morse and another Democratic senator, Angela Giron of Pueblo, face recall elections Tuesday for their support for gun legislation in the 2013 session. The Independence Institute opposed the bills, and Caldara talks about the election law on the group’s web site. The governor’s spokesman, Eric Brown, on Sunday talked about “political stunts.”
Republican Jon Caldara changed his voter registration Saturday morning from Boulder to El Paso County, saying a flawed election law Democrats passed earlier this year allows him to claim residency in another jurisdiction. But Caldara didn’t mark a ballot in the recall of Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs, a Democrat who faces ouster for pushing through stricter gun laws in the 2013 session. Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a think tank that fought the gun legislation and would like to see Morse lose his seat. Critics of Caldara’s plan claimed he could be charged with vote fraud, but he said that’s not why he left his ballot blank when he submitted it. “The point was not to be that last vote for Morse — as delicious as that might be — the purpose is to show how easy it is under the new law to move voters from district to district,” he said. Caldara originally marked his ballot “VOID,” which resulted in the elections machine not taking it, so he received another ballot, which had to be specially entered into the voting machine because it was not filled out.
About 2,800 voters in Pueblo have already cast ballots in the recall election over three days of early voting, but in Colorado Springs polls have yet to open. It’s a contrast that has raised eyebrows at more than one advocacy group for public engagement and voting rights. “It’s a huge concern for us,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “It’s the first time in many, many years voters won’t be able to get mail ballots and that’s created a lot of confusion and uncertainty about where people can vote.” Nunez said giving voters more chances to access the ballot is particularly important given the uncertainty leading up to the recall elections. Several court rulings have changed how the election would be handled – causing several iterations of election rules. Voters in Pueblo and Colorado Springs will decide on Sept. 10 whether to recall their state senators for gun legislation passed during the 2013 legislative session. Only residents within the districts of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo get to vote.
Voting Blogs: A. Lawyers, Guns and Money — Q. What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Recall | The Recall Elections Blog
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.
A Denver District Court judge on Thursday ruled that the office of Secretary of State Scott Gessler went overboard when establishing rules for the first-ever recall elections of state legislators. “I do not think any of the matters that we’re about to deal with were enacted or adopted by the secretary of state’s office in bad faith,” Judge Robert McGahey said. “But I think some of them were wrong.” Two Democrats — Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo — face ouster over their support for gun-control legislation during the 2013 session. Their elections are Sept. 10.
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz was back in Denver District Court Wednesday challenging a rule that bars him from using county-created identification cards as proof of voter identity in the Sept. 10 recall election for state Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. Denver District Judge Robert McGahey said he would rule on that question and others related to the recall elections Thursday. For instance, the Libertarian Party is challenging the legality of letting voters use an “emergency” email ballot that does not protect their identity. Ortiz already has sent out the yellow voter cards to Senate District 3 voters and each has the voter’s name, address and a voter identification number. Ortiz intended them for fast “express” voting. Secretary of State Scott Gessler advised Ortiz late Tuesday those cards can’t be used as proof of identity. Gessler said Ortiz must stick to previously accepted documents for voter identification, such as a utility bill, driver’s license or passport.
A Manitou Springs woman has filed a complaint against recall election candidate Bernie Herpin for ads he sent out attacking the Democratic senator he hopes to replace. The door hanger, which says “Paid for by Bernie Herpin for Senate District 11” advocates for the recall of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. Ann Schmitt says in the complaint that candidate committees are supposed to refrain from spending money or advocating in issue campaigns. The recall portion of the ballot is an issue campaign – with committees advocating for voters to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to kick Morse out of office. The second portion of the ballot is a candidate campaign – with the Republican candidate Herpin advocating for votes to replace Morse if he is recalled. So Morse’s campaign, which is an issue committee, would be unable to campaign against Herpin who is a candidate and vice-versa.
Gov. John Hickenlooper wants guidance from the Colorado Supreme Court on how to count votes in two legislative recall elections, asking whether people have to answer “yes” or “no” first on whether they support the recalls to have their votes for a successor validated. The question is important because if it’s not resolved a legal challenge could then require a recount or even invalidate the entire election, according to a filing late Friday from Attorney General John Suthers on behalf of the Democratic governor. “A successful challenge would, at a minimum, require a recount, although a direr outcome — such as the invalidation of the entire election based on the distribution of faulty ballots — cannot be ruled out,” the court filing said.
Colorado: Election day voter registration attacked by GOP, defended by Democrats in Colorado | The Gazette
A politically polarizing new election law will get its first test run during the Sept. 10 recall elections in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Same-day voter registration became mandatory with an elections overhaul bill that was signed into law in May. Democrats say allowing voters to register on election day provides greater access to the polls; Republicans say it will lead to rampant election fraud. It’s a debate being played out across the nation this year as states weigh the issue. The new law – HB1303 – will get its first test run during elections that are historic for being the first recall elections of state-level officials in Colorado. Voters will decide in two weeks whether to keep Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, in office.
The Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday declined to hear an appeal that sought to throw out this week’s ruling by a Denver district judge that recast a pair of recall elections of state lawmakers. The decision means Monday’s ruling by District Judge Robert McGahey stands. McGahey agreed with arguments made by the Libertarian Party of Colorado that prospective candidates in the recall elections of Democratic Sens. John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo can petition onto the ballot up until 15 days before the Sept. 10 election.
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz filed his appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court this afternoon, arguing that a Denver judge’s decision this week should be overruled and that a mail-ballot recall election on Sept. 10 should go forward as originally planned. State Sens. Angela Giron, of Pueblo, and John Morse, of Colorado Springs, face recall elections that day. Both are Democrats being targeted for supporting gun-control laws this year. Ortiz’s appeal says District Judge Robert McGahey erred in upholding the state constitution’s wording that says recall candidates should have until 15 days before the election to petition onto the recall ballot.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Libertarian Party of Colorado sued the State of Colorado to get more time to petition candidates on to the ballots to replace two state senators who are facing recall elections. It seemed to me that the Libertarians were likely to win because their argument was based squarely on the state constitution, even though a victory by them would through some chaos into the election, particularly by making it impossible to conduct a proper mail-in ballot election. Indeed, news reports say that despite the recent passage of a law that requires all major Colorado elections to be by mail, this election will not be. Yesterday, the judge in the case ruled for the Libertarians, meaning they will have until late August to try to submit enough valid signatures to have their candidates’ names appear on the ballot.
A Denver judge refused Thursday to stop recall elections for two Colorado Democratic senators who supported gun restrictions, even though the lawmakers are challenging the validity of the petitions. Denver District Court Robert Hyatt ruled against Colorado Springs Senate President John Morse and Pueblo Sen. Angela Giron, who tried to have recall elections blocked because of a technical glitch on petitions to recall them. Morse and Giron argued the petitions were invalid because they didn’t ask for an election for a successor, as detailed in the state constitution. Hyatt ruled that the successor language isn’t required and that the petitions were acceptable. The lawmakers sought a preliminary injunction from the judge, which prompted the ruling.
Voters in both Pueblo and Colorado Springs gathered enough signatures to move forward with recall elections for Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron. Those petitions are already deemed sufficient by the Secretary of State, but both camps are appealing the decision. Wednesday, that court battle will play out, with supporters of both senators and petition organizers. But those aren’t the only sides getting involved. As we first reported last week, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorders office will be there, pressing the Governor to set a date for the Morse recall election.