Court nixes recall proposal

A proposed measure aimed at revamping the way recall elections are held in Colorado won’t make this year’s ballot.

The Colorado Supreme Court struck down the idea Monday because the proposal, known as Initiative 76, not only dealt with recalling elected officials, but non-elected people as well, such as the directors of state or local agencies.

As a result, five of the seven justices said the proposal violated the state’s single-subject rule.

“Initiative 76 has a second purpose, to establish a new constitutional right to recall non-elected state and local officers,” Justice Gregory Hobbs wrote in the majority opinion. “Historically, Colorado law has provided only for the recall of elected officers. The initiative’s second subject has a distinct and separate purpose from its first subject.”

Hobbs said the single-subject rule is designed to prevent people from placing additional ideas into a ballot question for the sole purpose of garnering support the main proposal might not have.

“To avert such mischief, the single-subject requirement limits the voters to answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a straightforward, single-subject proposal,” Hobbs wrote. “In the case before us, some voters might favor altering the requirements for recalled elected officials, but not favor establishing a new constitutional right to recall non-elected officers, or visa versa.”

Two justices, Allison Eid and Nathan Coats, disagreed with the majority, saying the so-called two subjects actually are one in the same: government officials.

“The majority is entirely correct that the proposed initiative both defines a new recall procedure for Colorado and applies that procedure to certain officials,” Eid wrote in her dissenting opinion, which was joined by Coats. “But I disagree that this fact somehow creates multiple subjects. On the contrary, the two ‘subjects’ are integrally related: the proposed initiative first defines the new recall procedures, and then describes the class of government officials subject to them.”

Eid said she didn’t think the proponents of the measure were attempting to add different things to the proposal in order to gain wider support.

“The majority’s suggestion that the proposed initiative somehow brings together disparate factions in order to achieve their otherwise disparate agendas is entirely unconvincing,” she wrote. “Those who favor reforming the Colorado recall procedure as the initiative proposes would also favor the initiative’s application of those reforms to a broad array of government officials.”

The proposal was initiated, in part, by Natalie Menton, who was campaign manager for three controversial tax-slashing measures in 2010 — Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 — that were rejected by nearly three-fourths of Colorado voters.


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