Colorado Democrats learned something from their painful defeats in last year’s recall drives, namely that it’s time to change the recall rules.
Democratic legislators introduced a bill Monday that would “harmonize” the state’s recall law with last year’s elections overhaul, but organizers of the recall movement said they view the measure as an attempt to make removing public officials more difficult.
Victor Head, who ran the successful recall against former state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), said he saw the bill as a “retaliatory sort of move.”
“I think it’s just spiteful,” said Head, who’s now running for Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder. “They really don’t care about public opinion any more. They’ve proven that over and over.”
Senate Bill 158, introduced by Democratic Sens. Pat Steadman of Denver and Matt Jones of Longmont, would require conducting recall elections by mail, which is now the state standard under the Democrats’ sweeping 2013 elections law.
The Sept. 10 recalls of Giron and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were not conducted by mail because of the time constraints involved. Giron later blamed her defeat on “voter suppression,” saying the absence of mail-in ballots dampened turnout.
The Colorado Constitution allows candidates to petition onto the recall ballot 15 days before the election, which essentially nullified a mail-vote for the recalls, but the bill would redefine the election as the first day of voting.
Head predicted the bill, if passed, would immediately be challenged in court.
“You can’t just change the meaning of things. Words have meaning. Election Day is Election Day,” said Head. “You can’t just say, ‘Well, Election Day is when mail-in ballots go out.’ That’s what they’re saying. I have a feeling that’s going to cause more problems with more statutes.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman said in a statement that the bill would change the state Constitution and “therefore need approval from the People of Colorado,” not just a vote of the Democrat-controlled legislature.
“It’s understandable that after losing two recall elections and witnessing the defeat of a historic billion dollar tax increase Democrats would prefer not to take any more issues to the people, but the Constitution is clear–the people of Colorado must vote on any changes in this area,” said Cadman. “This proposal, combined with their lawsuit to eliminate the Taxpayer Bill of Rights should be of serious concern for everyone.”
Steadman told the Associated Press that the bill was an attempt to update “old, dusty language” that doesn’t “facilitate the constitutional right of recall.”
The bill also removes the requirement that voters must cast an up-or-down vote on the candidate being recalled before voting for a potential successor, and allows voters to protest the winning candidate as unqualified within 72 hours after the certification of a recall.
Mike McAlpine, who led the recall drive against former state Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Arvada), said he hadn’t studied the bill but said he “wasn’t surprised” that Democrats would try to protect “arrogant politicians who don’t represent their constituents.”
Giron and Morse became the first state legislators in Colorado history to be recalled, and were succeeded by Republicans George Rivera and Bernie Herpin. Hudak resigned in November before the recall petitions could be submitted, and was replaced by Democrat Rachel Zenzinger.