DENVER–He’s a 28-year-old plumber from Pueblo, but Victor Head stunned Colorado’s political establishment by doing what some said was impossible: He collected 12,648 valid signatures to force a recall election without hiring paid petition circulators.
His group, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, submitted a total of 13,466 signatures to recall state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), meaning 94 percent of his signatures were deemed valid and only 6 percent were invalid.
Analysts say the typical throw-out rate for signatures is about 20 percent.
How does a guy with no discernible political experience working on a shoestring budget pull off such a feat? According to Head, it wasn’t that tough for anyone who knows how to use an iPhone.
“It was pretty simple,” said Head, who organized the recall along with his brother Adam Head and friend Ernest Mascarenas. “I’m a younger guy, and the technology is here. There’s no reason not to use it.”
Time will tell whether the recall group’s signatures stand up under scrutiny. The anti-recall group, Pueblo United for Angela, announced Tuesday that a constituent has filed a protest to throw out the petitions because they fail to include a demand for a successor.
It’s the same challenge filed by backers of Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), who’s also facing a recall drive. A hearing on the Morse protest is scheduled Thursday at the Secretary of State’s office.
“For people who believe in the Constitution, these proponents were cavalier about following its very specific requirements for a recall election,” said Mark Grueskin, an election lawyer representing both the Giron and Morse constituents. “This isn’t about a ‘T’ that wasn’t crossed or some missing punctuation mark. This is a substantive element of a recall petition that courts require in cases just like this one.”
Head said he thought it was ironic that Giron would try to fend off a recall election on what he described as a “technicality,” given her support for the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, the state legislature’s newly passed bill expanding access to the ballot box.
“It’s really hypocritical of her because she was a major sponsor of the voter-access act, saying ‘Everyone should have a voice, everyone should be able to vote’–unless it might affect her,” said Head. “If she was really serious about voting, she’d say, ‘Okay, let’s have an election.’”
As a result, he said, “It’s just unfortunate that a regular guy like me has to pay for lawyers.”
Head attributed the recall effort’s success in collecting signatures to its passion for the cause. He and other Pueblo residents were infuriated by Giron’s votes in favor of the state legislature’s sweeping package of gun-control bills.
They didn’t have much money–PFR has raised about $7,000, compared with more than $70,000 collected by Giron’s group–but they sweated the details. While paid circulaters may be a little looser about who signs the petitions, he said he and his foot soldiers insisted on checking every would-be signer’s eligibility.
They set up tables in parking lots and used cell phones, hot spots, laptops and iPads to log onto the Secretary of State’s website and ensure that any signer was a registered voter in the district. The group also relied on lists of registered voters provided by the county clerk’s office.
“We said that’s the golden rule–you don’t take any signatures unless they’re on the voter-registration list,” said Head. “We hadn’t done this before, but it’s like the old adage about hiring new people because they don’t have any bad habits.”
He said some signatures were rejected by the Secretary of State’s office because of errors committed by notaries. Without those, he said, the group would have had a signature-validity rate closer to 97 percent.
“When you have volunteers who really care about what they’re doing,” said Head, “then they’re just incredibly careful.”