Effort to recall governor falls flat

Conrad Tucker from Grand Junction outside the Mesa County Central Services building to sign up people to recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis.He said he is signing up about 40 people a day.

The main group behind an effort to oust Democratic Gov. Jared Polis from office announced Friday that it doesn't have nearly enough signatures to force a recall election.

While the group, Dismiss Polis, claimed it collected about 300,000 signatures, less than half of the 631,265 needed to be successful, that figure can't be verified because the group isn't turning them into the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

The group is not barred by law from trying again, which it said may happen. The Colorado Constitution says that any unsuccessful recall election for a statewide office must have had at least 50% of the votes cast in the last general election in its signature petition drive — 315,633 in the case of the governor's race — to try again. If that were to occur, an additional effort is barred until that elected official's term ends, said Tony Martinez, chief of staff for Secretary of State Jenna Griswold.

In a statement, Polis said the entire matter was a misguided sideshow.

"After all that fuss, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't turn in a single signature on the recall," Polis said. "For my nine months in office, I've held regular meetings with Republican and Democratic legislative leadership, and after the remaining recall efforts fail, I plan on inviting both sides to a joint bipartisan leadership meeting to discuss how together we can improve our schools, reduce our traffic, and save people even more money on health care."

Currently, there are three separate recall efforts by Republicans against Democratic senators, including Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo.

Like the backers of those efforts, the people who led the petition drive to recall Polis said they did so because they don't like many of the measures approved by the Democratic-controlled Colorado Legislature and signed into law by Polis, including such things as revamping the way the state regulates oil and gas development, joining a national effort to elect future presidents by popular vote and enacting a new law to allow judges to issue extreme risk protection orders to take away temporarily firearms from mentally ill gun owners.

Unlike laws governing petition drives for ballot questions, recall efforts are far more onerous. In addition to requiring a higher threshold of needed signatures, such efforts have much more limited time. In this case, the Polis recall effort only had 60 days to collect signatures.

To get enough signatures to recall Polis, the petition effort would have had to collect nearly 11,000 signatures a day. Adding the usual 30% rejection rate in invalidated signatures common in petition drives, that number rises to nearly 13,700 daily signatures, or more than 820,000 overall.

Republicans and Democrats alike opposed the recall effort, but not necessarily for the same reasons.

One such group, Democracy First Colorado, which is helping to battle the recall efforts against state legislators, sent out "decline to sign" mailers to Colorado voters.

"This doomed-from-the-start effort was never about a recall, it was a thinly disguised scam to line the pockets of consultants and help them gather data for the next election," said Curtis Hubbard, spokesman for the group. "(Friday's) announced failure is another sign that these bogus recalls will continue to be met with a resounding 'no thanks' from Colorado voters who are not interested in what these scammers, extremists and sore losers are selling."

The Polis signature campaign raised some eyebrows in Grand Junction, including from people who signed the petition. That's because some questioned whether they were allowed to set up a signing petition booth on county property, as some did at the county's Central Services Building on Spruce Avenue.

But Assistant Mesa County Attorney John Rhoads said the law allows it, and no permits are required.

"Subject to certain restrictions, citizens can set up tables on certain Mesa County property to collect petition signatures," Rhoads said. "Some areas of county property are considered a public forum, such as the courthouse steps and some external areas of public buildings. Safety of the public is a government interest so that any free speech activity in a public forum can be regulated so that citizens are not threatened or harassed, the public and county staff are not impeded in their efforts to conduct business and there is safe ingress/egress of county buildings."

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