Recalls generate calls for reform
GOP chairman: Votes serve as
DENVER – In the wake of historic recalls of two Colorado state senators, partisans and analysts from coast to coast busied themselves Wednesday with predictions on what the election means.
Spin aside, Tuesday night’s elections in Colorado Springs and Pueblo are likely to rekindle a debate about how and when Coloradans cast their ballots. But they won’t inspire another recall campaign in Southwest Colorado.
“These victories serve as a warning to arrogant politicians everywhere that they must stop ignoring their constituents,” Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call said in a written statement. “These recall elections also prove that Colorado Republicans are energized, organized and ready to fight and win in 2014.”
GOP officials and well-funded lobby groups at first avoided the recalls, but they got involved after gun-rights activists successfully forced recall votes against Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, both Democrats.
While the votes were still being counted, the Republican Governors Association predicted they would be an omen for 2014.
“Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 2014 re-election hopes not looking too rosy in Colorado tonight,” the RGA said on Twitter.
Hickenlooper, though, said the 2014 election will be about broader economic issues, unlike Tuesday’s recalls.
“As close as I can tell in both of those recall elections, almost every discussion was about guns,” Hickenlooper said.
Democrats comforted themselves with the knowledge that turnout was low and reflected only a small slice of the state’s voters. The 52,540 ballots cast account for less than 3 percent of the total votes statewide in the 2010 election.
Democrats believe they could have won – at least in Morse’s district – if turnout had been higher. (Giron lost despite Democrats enjoying a 2-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans in Pueblo.)
The recall should have been the first test of a new all-mail voting system that Democrats passed this year with the help of county clerks from both parties. But a series of lawsuits over Colorado’s little-used recall laws ended up delaying the printing of ballots, and very few people got to vote by mail.
“This was voter suppression, pure and simple,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, in a news release. “Tuesday’s low turnout was a result of efforts by the NRA, the Koch brothers and other right-wing groups who know that when more people vote, Democrats win.”
There is already a push to rewrite the century-old recall election law, a task that probably will require a voter-adopted constitutional amendment.
Candidates’ deadlines in recalls are just 15 days before Election Day, and that makes it very difficult for counties to print ballots, said La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker.
“I can pretty much guarantee you there will be a lot of discussion and conversation,” said Parker, who helped write the election bill that passed earlier this year.
The recall movement in Colorado got started with a campaign against freshman Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango. But local activists failed to get enough petition signatures to force a vote.
“What happened (Tuesday) night was extremely significant, and I have no doubt it would have happened here if we’d had a little more help in getting signatures,” said Dave Saleh, an organizer of the campaign against McLachlan.
Still, Saleh said, his allies are focused on the 2014 election, and not a do-over of their recall effort.
By the time the signatures were gathered and approved, “We’d be six months into the election cycle, so what’s the point?”
Hickenlooper, too, said he is not worried that recalls will be the new normal in Colorado politics.
“I doubt it. Recalls are expensive. The best way to recall someone is through a general election,” Hickenlooper said.