DENVER–Recall advocates defended their petition language Thursday, calling a protest filed by supporters of Senate President John Morse “bogus and frivolous.”
“This was nothing more than a certification-day publicity stunt,” said Jennifer Kerns, spokeswoman for the Morse recall, at a press conference. “They [the challenges] have no legal basis whatsoever and are in direct contradiction to decades of Colorado election law.”
The Secretary of State announced Tuesday that there are sufficient signatures to proceed with a recall vote, but the pro-Morse group, A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, contends that the petitions are invalid because they fail to include “a demand for the election of a successor to the recalled official.”
“The Constitution is clear, just as the courts are clear: no recall petition is valid without this specific language,” said Mark Grueskin, an elections lawyer representing the district constituent, Catherine Kleinsmith, who filed the protest.
“This requirement makes sense,” he said in the statement. “After all, these recall proponents held out the bait of a recall of Sen. Morse without alerting petition signers to what comes next–an expensive election to designate a successor for just one year.”
A hearing on the protest is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, before the Secretary of State or his designate.
Kerns argued that the form provided to the recall campaign by the Secretary of State’s office does not require that organizers call for an election. She also said that Morse received a copy of the petition language before signature-gathering began, and that the deadline for such a challenge was 70 days ago.
“The time period for a petition protest has passed,” she said. “The protest period we’re in is for signatures only.”
The Secretary of State’s office validated 10,137 signatures, nearly 3,000 more than required to force a recall election for Morse. A Colorado Springs Democrat, Morse angered constituents by backing three gun-control measures during the 2013 legislative session.
The Morse camp has gone on the offensive, using Twitter to post a rash of messages accusing the recall campaign of “#shadytactics” and a “#shadyagenda,” along with filing an “#illegalpetition” and being “#sorelosers.”
“Recall signature collectors harass and intimidate voters,” said a tweet posted Tuesday.
At the same time, Morse supporters are contacting those who signed the petition and asking them if they want to change their minds, according to the El Paso Freedom Defense Committee, which is running the recall along with the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, in a Thursday post on Facebook.
“Apparently, Morse’s DC tactics are at it again,” said the Facebook post. “Many people who signed the petition are being called and being pressured to recant their signature on the petition. We are asking folks to let us know if you feel intimidated by these calls or are being overtly coerced in any way.”
In a video message on Facebook, Morse called on out-of-state supporters, specifically those in Boston and San Francisco, to help him defeat the recall effort, thanking them “for all that you’re going to do as we move forward to take on this tiger.”
Speculation is rife that Morse may resign in order to allow a Democratic vacancy committee to choose a successor, which would allow Democrats to retain the seat. Morse is term-limited and cannot run for reelection in 2014.
“We understand Sen. Morse wants to tie this up in the court system so that he can stay in office longer,” said Kerns.