Senate OKs bill to change policy for recall elections

Still stinging from last year’s first-ever recall elections, the Democratic-controlled Colorado Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that would change the way recall elections are held.

Because of several controversial gun-control measures approved by the Legislature last year, two Democratic state senators were recalled, including then President John Morse of Colorado Springs, leaving the party with a narrow one-vote majority in the Senate.

Democrats have since complained that only happened because few people voted in those September elections, saying that partly was because the courts ruled candidates who want to replace recalled legislators have 15 days before an election to qualify for a recall ballot.

Trouble is, that’s not enough time to get those candidates’ named printed on a ballot and still have enough time to mail them to voters, particularly to those in the military or overseas.

As a result, those elections could not use the state’s new all-mail ballot laws, which Democrats believe would have boosted turnout.

“The election process last summer was not exactly something I think anyone would describe as smooth or ideal,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who introduced SB158. “In fact, four separate cases were litigated through the court system in order to clarify for the county clerks and the people involved in the recall process exactly how the laws were to be interpreted and administered in this situation.”

While the laws those recalls were based on are spelled out in the Colorado Constitution, Senate Democrats are trying to fix them through state statutes, which Republicans say is completely unconstitutional.

Among other things, the bill redefines when that 15-day clock begins, saying that instead of it being on Election Day, it should be the first day ballots can be cast, which could be weeks prior because of early voting.

Republicans say that’s just not right, and will guarantee another court challenge.

“Our job is not to increase turnout, our job is to protect the turnout,” said Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.

“Just because the Constitution might be an inconvenient truth, it’s still the truth, and changing that through a statute is not allowed,” he said. “We’re not allowed to distort it. We’re not allowed to pretend it doesn’t exist.”

The bill requires a final Senate vote, which could come as early as today, before heading to the House for more debate.


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