Residents hold up signs during the recall election in September. (credit: CBS)

Residents hold up signs during the recall election in September. (credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its decision that voters do not have to first vote “yes” or “no” on recall elections to have their votes for a successor validated, a ruling that could force the state to rewrite part of its constitution.

The high court said a state constitutional requirement that voters must note their position on the recall before selecting a candidate violates rights to voting and expression under the U.S. Constitution.

The court’s written ruling came in response to a question from Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, and follows two Colorado legislative recall elections over new gun laws.

The elections went ahead as scheduled last month, with Democratic Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Democratic Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo both being ousted. The two were replaced by gun-rights Republicans in a reaction to their support for tougher gun laws following last year’s mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.

Hickenlooper said in a filing through the state attorney general that the question was important because going ahead with the election Sept. 10 could have required a recount or even be invalidated if someone raised a legal challenge after the election.

Matthew Ferguson, an attorney for the Libertarian Party, which raised the question, said some voters might object to being asked their opinion on whether to hold a recall election but they might hedge their bets by voting for a candidate in case the recall is approved.

“Some people don’t want to do recalls. Our constitution is going to have to be corrected,” he said. Ferguson said there is some question on how the state constitution can be changed and whether the ruling by the state’s highest court can be challenged.

Attorney General John Suthers said Monday he expects a referred measure from the Legislature to voters next year that would clear up several questions from this year’s recall election. He said they would include Monday’s ruling on ballot requirements, legal delays in sending out mail ballots and residency requirements for people who can vote in recall elections.

Mark Grueskin, attorney for Giron, Morse and the state Democratic Party, did not have an immediate response to the ruling.

Monday’s detailed written opinion came after the high court announced its decision in a brief statement in August. Justices Monica Marquez and Nathan Coats issued a dissenting opinion, saying there was no rush to allow the election to proceed without a written opinion because there was only minimal debate and the issues raised could have been dealt with after the election.

By STEVEN K. PAULSON, Associated Press

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