DENVER—Democrats blaming “voter suppression” for their stunning loss in Tuesday’s recall elections are running into pushback from those who call their argument “ridiculous.”
The latest Democrat to jump on the voter-suppression bandwagon is former state Sen. Angela Giron, who said in an interview with CNN-TV that she lost her District 3 seat because the recall was conducted as a walk-in election, not a mail-in.
“What this story really is about, it’s about voter suppression,” said Giron in an interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. “Seventy percent of Coloradans vote by mail, and we didn’t have access to that mail ballot.”
Of course, neither side had access to vote by mail, but Giron argued that the people who supported her votes in favor of gun-control legislation had a more difficult time getting to the polls than those who didn’t.
“The people that are in support of very commonsense gun legislation weren’t able to get to the polls,” said Giron. “They vote by [mail-in] ballot and they have been doing that for 25 years. We have to call it for what it is.”
But Victor Head, who led the Pueblo-based recall, called her argument “ridiculous,” pointing out that the Giron recall wasn’t particularly close. She lost by a margin of 56 to 44 percentage points, or by 4,154 votes.
“Look, we won by 12 points,” said Head, who leads Pueblo Freedom and Rights. “This wasn’t a matter of a few hundred people who weren’t able to get to the polls.”
The Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder reported that 34,682 people voted for a turnout margin of 36 percent. That’s lower than the 43 percent who voted in 2010, when Giron won her seat, but Head noted that off-year elections inevitably draw fewer voters than those in even-numbered years, which feature high-profile congressional, gubernatorial or presidential races.
Special elections like recalls also tend to result in lower turnout than regular elections.
“It was a special election held at an odd time of the year,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray). “And they still had almost as many voters as they usually get. Here in Colorado, people are getting tired of their [Democrats’] excuses.”
Turnout in the District 11 recall election of Senate President John Morse was even lower at 26 percent. But that figure actually exceeds turnout in the last off-year election in November 2011, according to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder.
Morse lost the recall by 51 to 49 percentage points in a race that drew 17,845 voters. In November 2011, 17,033 voters cast ballots in District 11, or about 800 fewer than in the Sept. 10 recall.
What’s more, the 2011 election was conducted entirely by mail, said El Paso County elections spokesman Ryan Parsell, who rejected the voter-suppression charge.
“In 2011, we had an all-mail ballot coordinated election. More people voted in this recall election than in that all-mail 2011 election,” said Parsell. “So no, I don’t buy it.”
Under Colorado’s new elections law, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, every election is now conducted by mail. In August, however, a district court judge ruled that would-be recall candidates must have until Aug. 26 to file petitions to qualify, which left insufficient time for clerks to mail ballots to voters and then receive them before Sept. 10.
Giron, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said confusion over the rules “led to the voices of people in Pueblo County and El Paso County not having their voices heard.”
As far as Head is concerned, however, the voters’ voices were heard—it’s just that Giron didn’t like the message.
“This wasn’t super-low turnout. It was about average for an off-year election,” said Head. “She doesn’t have any ground to stand on. She would have lost worse if it was mail-in, that’s all that would have happened.”
You can view Giron’s CNN appearance below.