DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s first-ever legislative recall elections will require most voters to cast ballots in person, even if they have previously requested ballots by mail, the state’s high court ruled Thursday.
The Colorado Supreme Court refused to enter a dispute over ballot timing in the recall. That means emergency rules announced Thursday by the Republican secretary of state will stand.
The court’s 3-3 decision gives third-party candidates more time to qualify for the ballot and could have important consequences for Democrats facing recalls next month.
Sens. Angela Giron, of Pueblo, and John Morse, of Colorado Springs, face recall votes after supporting gun-control measures that included expanded background checks and limits on the size of ammunition magazines.
An election law passed this year said recall votes would be conducted entirely by mail. Democrats hoped that all eligible voters would get ballots, boosting turnout and potentially helping incumbents.
But a successful lawsuit filed by the Libertarian Party challenged the deadlines to qualify for the ballot.
The law gives would-be successors to recalled officials just 10 days to qualify for the ballot. That deadline conflicts with a 1912 provision in the state constitution giving recall candidates up to 15 days before a vote to qualify.
Would-be successors to Giron and Morse now have until Aug. 26 to petition onto ballots, which means there won’t be time to print and mail ballots to all voters.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, has long opposed all-mail voting and pressed ahead on new rules for in-person voting for the Sept. 10 races.
Ballot-access advocates have complained that Republicans want to muddy the recall process, potentially confusing voters and depressing turnout among those without strong opinions on gun rights.
Even if Morse and Giron lose, the Senate will remain in Democratic hands, though by only a single vote.
Speaking for a coalition of voting-access advocates, Kristy Milligan of the group Citizens Project complained that returning to voting centers could lead to long lines and voter confusion. Under the draft rules released Thursday, even voters who have requested to permanently receive ballots in the mail will have to make a special request to get mailed ballots next month.
“Voters are accustomed to voting in the comfort of their own homes,” Milligan said.
The new process will be even more complicated for military and overseas voters, who have already been mailed recall ballots with only the Democratic incumbents and their Republican challengers on the ballot.
Gessler’s plan calls for overseas voters to get additional ballots later, with their votes being counted up to eight days after the elections as long as their ballots are postmarked Sept. 10. Overseas voters who return two ballots will have the second ballot, not the first, counted.
State elections officials assured a veteran voting advocate that they’re going to speed efforts to get updated ballots to overseas voters. The clerks in both counties talked about opening additional voting centers to cut down on potential long lines.
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
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