Governor Under Pressure to Call Special Session

September 17, 2013
Critics want Hickenlooper to convene a special session of the legislature to amend the state’s controversial elections law

Critics want Hickenlooper to convene a special session of the legislature to amend a controversial election law

DENVER—The Colorado state legislature returns in less than four months, but calls are surfacing for the governor to convene a special session to tackle issues that may not be able to wait.

In a Sunday editorial, the Colorado Springs Gazette urged Gov. John Hickenlooper to convene a special session in order to amend the state’s newly approved voter law, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, also known as House Bill 1303.

“The new law undoes traditional checks and balances that have kept elections fair,” said the editorial. “Gone are assurances that only lawful residents of a jurisdiction get to vote in an election. Before HB1303, only the tinfoil hat crowd worried much about election fraud. Today, with HB1303, it’s a legitimate concern.”

Meanwhile, columnist Dave Diepenbrock of Colorado Peak Politics called Monday for a special session to deal with another issue: appropriating funds to cover the costs of disaster relief in the wake of this month’s epic Front Range floods.

“One thing is clear. Colorado cannot dawdle. What to do is obvious,” he said in the post. “Our legislature appropriated a billion dollar reserve to education without requiring outcome improvements in our state’s schools. That money should be reappropriated in special session to disaster response.”

Convening a special session is viewed as an extraordinary measure, but Hickenlooper has done it before. Last year, he called a special session in May, shortly after the legislature adjourned, in order to give more time for legislators to consider a civil-unions bill.

There’s a precedent in state history for legislators to reconvene in the event of a natural disaster. Diepenbrock said that the state legislature held a special session to approve a temporary tax increase in response to the floods of 1965.

In the case of the elections law, waiting until January would mean the new rules would be in force for the Nov. 5 election, including a controversial section that appears to allow voters to cast ballots outside their jurisdictions by affirming that they intend to move.

Critics say the law creates an opportunity for campaigns to shuffle so-called “gypsy voters” to different jurisdictions in tight elections, a scenario raised but left unresolved during the Sept. 10 recall campaign.

“This gives almost any Coloradan–especially those among us who are willing to lie–an easy opportunity to vote in local elections. Want to pass or kill a local school tax? Bring in voters willing to state an ‘intention’ to move,” said the Gazette. “Want to undo a municipal gun law? Ask impassioned gun-rights activists to show up and state their intentions to move. Supporters of Morse and Giron may never know whether out-of-jurisdiction voting hurt their senators, though no good evidence suggests it did.”

The debate culminated Sept. 7 when Independence Institute president Jon Caldara cast a blank ballot in early voting on the Colorado Springs recall, even though he has long lived in Boulder. Caldara said he voted in the Morse recall in order to prove a point.

Democrats insist that H.B. 1303, which makes mail-in voting the norm and allows same-day registration, does not open the door for gypsy voting. The episode prompted ProgressNow-Colorado to call for the El Paso County District Attorney to file charges against Caldara, but El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams has yet to identify the vote as a violation of the new elections law.

Caldara said he supports a special session to clean up H.B. 1303, which was approved by the Democratic legislature with no Republican votes.

“I don’t know if there’s enough time, but they made a mess and it needs to be rectified,” said Caldara. “If it’s at all possible to do it before the next election, we need to do so.”

The Gazette editorial predicted that tightening up the law would take no longer than a few hours, but would “prevent lawsuits and additional public anxiety.”

So far Hickenlooper has not commented on the requests for a special session.

“Here’s a message to the governor: It was a fast and furious legislative session. I get that,” said Caldara. “You signed a faulty bill into law. Mistakes happen, but a bigger mistake would be to ignore it.”

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2 Responses to Governor Under Pressure to Call Special Session

  1. Bob Terry
    September 17, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Yeah this really great .. They want this BILLION dollar legislation without any results or accountability…so bad ..they can taste it. DROOL..SLOBER…What is this we’ll pass it regardless… A the Jedi mind trick …you don’t need to know the process, you want this to be passed…

    Well back to reality Screw HB 1303 it is a flawed and a poorly written bill..and I think If this is still in place all that vote for the garbage be recalled..and FORCED to defend their position …

    This Billion dollar school agenda …For the love of Mike…ya can’t even produce results with the money now …HELLO Hello hello is there anybody out there…is there anyone at all?? Sorry both are so full of holes and crap….we gonna be that stupid ..I hope not..Maybe repatriated Californicates should not be allowed to vote..

    Come on people Stand Up say Colorado majority legislature you really suck..hey have Denver and Boulder use the grocery “FEE” to fund this garbage…


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