Recall election law needs an upgrade
At first blush, the Colorado Senate’s approval of a bill to change the way recall elections are held looks like a classic case of political sour grapes.
Last year, for the first time in the state’s history, voters ousted two senate members — both Democrats — through a recall election. Democrats still retain a narrow one-vote majority in the Senate, which they used to pass SB158.
Democrats maintain that the success of last year’s recall was aided by arcane provisions in the state’s century-old recall elections law that limited voter turnout.
Republicans argue that the Legislature doesn’t have the authority to change recall provisions because they’re spelled out in the Colorado Constitution.
The recall election rules were written before the advent of modern voting methods, such as mail-in ballots, absentee ballots and early voting. We agree that it’s time for recalls to reflect the modern voting climate.
We continue to believe that recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct. It should not be employed to punish elected officials for their political or ideological views, as was clearly the case with last year’s recalls.
Last September, two senators, including then President John Morse of Colorado Springs, were the object of recalls because they supported controversial gun-control measures approved by the Legislature but opposed by the GOP.
Recall deadlines set in the state Constitution prevented last year’s elections from being conducted by mail. Democrats want to adjust the deadlines to give voters the full slate of modern election options.
If recalls are going to be used as political weapons, we think it’s imperative that recall elections be as inclusive as possible.
Last year’s recall elections illustrated the need for better guidelines. The bill’s author, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, noted the need for court rulings to help county clerks understand how the laws were to be interepreted and administered.
We think clarifying murky constitutional language or updating outmoded provisions is an appropriate use of statutory power. If Republicans want to fight the changes because they view them as unconstitutional, a court challenge will help settle the issue.
Either way, voters deserve resolution on the matter. We don’t know when another recall election is coming. We can only hope that they don’t become more pervasive based on the whims of political groups who disagree with the views of their elected officials.