DENVER (AP) – Voters in two Colorado legislative recall elections over new gun laws don’t have to first vote “yes” or “no” on the recall to have their votes for a successor validated, the state Supreme Court said Tuesday.
A state constitutional requirement saying voters must first vote on the recall before voting for a candidate violates rights to voting and expression under the U.S. Constitution, the Colorado high court said. The court’s brief statement came in response to a question from Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The decision is the latest twist in recalls that have triggered legal challenges and drawn the attention of big-money contributors like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg wrote a check for $350,000 to support the Democratic candidates targeted for recall, according to the latest campaign finance disclosures.
Hickenlooper said in a filing through the state attorney general that the question is important because the Sept. 10 elections could require a recount or even be invalidated if someone raises a legal challenge afterward.
The legal filing from Hickenlooper noted that a “virtually identical provision” of California election law that required a vote on the recall before voting for a candidate was declared unconstitutional in 2003, during the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis.
Election ballots were expected to be printed Tuesday, but the decision from the state Supreme Court won’t present an issue, the Colorado secretary of state’s office said.
“It means that the wording will have to be changed to get rid of the requirement,” said spokesman Andrew Cole, referring to the state provision that voters decide whether to approve the recall before selecting a successor candidate. “But from an operations standpoint, this is pretty simple.”
The Colorado Supreme Court said it would issue a detailed written opinion later.
The recalls involve two Democrats: Colorado Springs Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, of Pueblo. Both supported new gun restrictions this year, including limits on the size of ammunition magazines and expanding background checks to include private and online firearm sales. No Republicans voted for the proposals.
Retired police officer George Rivera is challenging Giron, and Bernie Herpin, a former Colorado Springs councilman, is running against Morse.
Campaign finance paperwork filed Tuesday showed the NRA has contributed more than $108,600 to try to unseat the Democratic incumbents. Most of the money has gone toward radio, Internet, and cable ads, as well as billboard advertising.
But backers of Morse and Giron have given bigger donations, most notably Bloomberg’s contribution.
Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group has pushed for more restrictions on firearms in states nationwide, including Colorado. Billionaire Philanthropist Eli Broad also contributed $250,000 to the Democrats’ campaigns.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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