DENVER (AP) — Colorado Democrats targeted for recall elections because of their support for gun control laws are arguing that the elections can’t be held because voters didn’t fully understand the recall petitions.
Lawyers for Democratic Sen. John Morse, of Colorado Springs, laid out the strategy Thursday in a challenge heard by a deputy secretary of state. A second Democratic senator — Angela Giron of Pueblo — has made the same argument challenging her recall, with a hearing scheduled next week.
Democrats argue the recall petitions are void because they didn’t include language insisting on the election of a successor to go along with the recall. Arguing for Morse, Democratic attorney Mark Grueskin pointed out that recall elections are essentially two-part ballots, on the recall of an incumbent, then the election of a replacement.
Morse’s opponents, who easily cleared a threshold of signatures needed to force a recall election, argued that they simply followed a template handed to them by the secretary of state’s office. Though successor language wasn’t on the petitions, Morse’s opponents argued, voters knew what they were doing when they signed for Morse to be recalled.
Richard Westfall, an attorney with the Colorado Republican Party and the gun-rights group seeking Morse’s recall, said the petitions didn’t need to include “some sort of magic language” to be clear.
“We think that is an absurd proposition,” Westfall said.
Morse and Giron are being targeted because they voted earlier this year for a gun control package that includes ammunition magazine limits and expanded background checks for gun purchases.
If the recalls proceed, they’d be the first recall elections for a state lawmaker since Colorado adopted recall procedures in 1912. Two other Democrats also saw recall attempts, though those fizzled.
Morse’s attorney insisted that recall petition signers didn’t necessarily understand what they were signing. Grueskin hired a national polling firm, which concluded that a majority of Morse’s constituents didn’t understand the two-part nature of recall elections.
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert has until July 3 to rule on Morse’s objection. Both sides say they’ll appeal her ruling to Denver District Court.
The El Paso County clerk’s office said Thursday it will ask Gov. John Hickenlooper to set an election date of Aug. 27.
By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)