DENVER (AP) – Two Colorado Democrats facing legislative recalls because they supported gun-control measures got a new wrinkle to contend with Monday. A Denver judge gave third-party candidates more time to join the race, rejecting part of a new elections law that said the recalls would be all-mail elections.
Denver District Judge Robert McGahey sided with Libertarians who sued to get additional time for third-party candidates. The Sept. 10 recall elections are the first in state history for members of the Legislature.
Sens. Angela Giron, of Pueblo, and John Morse, of Colorado Springs, currently face only Republicans in the recall votes. The Republicans were the only ones able to meet a deadline set by elections officials to get on the ballots in time for printing and mailing, as required by a new state law adopted this year.
Libertarians argued that the new state law conflicts with a never-before-used provision in the state constitution allowing would-be successors up to 15 days before recall elections to qualify for ballots.
The new state elections law requires recall elections to be conducted by mail.
Perhaps because Colorado has never seen a state legislator recalled since the recall was adopted in 1912, the conflict wasn’t noticed earlier this year by lawmakers who approved the mail-in voting procedure. El Paso County has already mailed more than 600 ballots to military and overseas voters.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler said the judge’s decision means the recalls can’t be all-mail elections. He insisted the votes won’t be delayed, and that overseas voters will get additional ballots, possibly with more candidates to choose from.
“We’re still going to have the election on Sept. 10, and we’re going to make that election work,” he vowed. Gessler conceded he wasn’t sure yet how the election process would change and said his office hadn’t decided whether to appeal.
Democrats who enacted the new election law had reason to want the recalls to be all-mail elections. Because the recall elections come at an unusual time, the incumbents challenged by the recalls would prefer to have all voters receive ballots, not just voters who remember there’s a race. Giron was Senate sponsor of the elections law.
The Colorado recalls have become national flashpoints for both sides in the gun-control debate. Colorado was the only state outside the East Coast to enact gun controls including expanded background checks after mass shootings last year.
The recalls have garnered national media attention and the eye of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who wrote a blog post Monday decrying the Colorado recalls as “a blatant attack on our Democratic principles.”
“Never have I seen an election like the one that’s happening in Colorado right now,” she wrote.
In Denver, McGahey repeatedly tried to play down the political implications of his decision. But he insisted he has no choice but to side with Colorado’s 101-year-old constitutional recall requirements over a newly passed state law that conflicts with the constitution. He conceded that a 15-day window doesn’t leave time for all military and overseas voters to receive and return overseas ballots, but he said that “absurd result” is one created by the Legislature.
“I don’t feel like I’ve got any choice,” McGahey said in his decision Monday night.
If elections officials appeal the case, it would immediately go to the state Supreme Court. If they don’t appeal, the elections details will likely be worked out by McGahey.
“I’d rather have a root canal, but the job is the job,” McGahey quipped after handing down his decision.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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