Colorado Senate recall elections shaken up by court ruling
By Alex Murray
DENVER, Colorado: Just under a month before they are due to take place, the recall elections against two Democratic Colorado state senators have run into a procedural issue that may keep some voters from casting a ballot.
On Monday, district judge Robert McGahey granted more time for candidates to file to run in the recall elections of Senate President John Morse and Angela Giron after the state Libertarian Party sued Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R), charging that a recently-passed law which calls for elections to be held by mail conflicts with a constitutional provision allowing for candidates to qualify for 15 days before an election. (The law was sponsored by Giron in the Senate.) Only Republican candidates were able to qualify before the ballot printing deadline, and some 600 ballots had already been printed and mailed by the time of the decision. In his ruling, McGahey said that the state constitution takes precedence over state statute, and chided the Colorado General Assembly for not considering the article on recalls in passing the elections law.
Candidates now have until August 26 to submit 1,000 valid signatures. Gessler announced yesterday that he will not appeal the decision; he said that while the elections cannot be held by mail anymore, they would go on as scheduled. Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz (D), however, filed an appeal, saying that because voters will now have to appear in person to cast a ballot, an estimated 900 overseas voters including active military might not be able to take part in the elections. El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams (R), who is said to be working with Ortiz to find a way to accommodate such voters, said he may participate in the appeal should the Colorado Supreme Court choose to hear it.
Morse and Giron's recall elections, the first of their kind in state history, were called following successful petitions by pro-gun advocates. The two senators supported recent gun control legislation that introduced universal background checks and limits on magazine capacity.
This is not the first time that the recall process has seen a legal challenge. Supporters of both candidates claimed that the respective petitions did not call for a successor to be elected in the event of a recall. That claim was rejected by the district court last month. While the suits awaited a decision, Gessler unsuccessfully sued Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) to force him to set an election date.
- John Morse
- John Morse recall, Colorado State Senate (2013)
- Angela Giron
- Angela Giron recall, Colorado State Senate (2013)
- Section 3, Article XXI, Colorado Constitution
- Associated Press, "Colorado recall candidates get more time to challenge gun-control supporters," August 12, 2013
- The Pueblo Chieftain, "Ortiz asks high court to restore mail-ballot recall election," August 14-15, 2013
- The Pueblo Chieftain, "Trump card," August 15, 2013
- The Denver Post, "Colorado recalls: Scott Gessler won’t appeal lawsuit ruling to state Supreme Court," August 14, 2013
- The Colorado Observer, "Judge’s Ruling Sidelines Mail Ballots in Morse, Giron Recall Contests," August 13, 2013
- The Colorado Statesman, "Recall elections are on!" July 18, 2013