Supporters of embattled Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron suffered another legal setback this week when District Judge McGahey ruled against mail ballots mandated by HB1303, the recent election reform law championed by Giron and Morse, because it conflicted with the State Constitution.
The ruling against the mail ballot provision is the latest in a series of failed legal challenges brought by lawyers for Giron and Morse. In the last legislative session Giron sponsored and Morse co-sponsered the election reform law which included various changes which could jeopardize election integrity. The ruling also means that Morse and Giron supporters cannot rely on mail ballots in the coming recall election, and instead must work for election day turnout. This will likely cause issues for both opponents and proponents of the recall election. In an off year, recall election in which voters will be forced to come to polling locations that are different than the precinct polling locations, it is likely turnout will be very low and the opposing campaigns ground games will be essential.
Recall supporters now have an advantage in the September 10 election since many of the voters they need to turn out have already shown support for the recall by signing the petition. The opposition would have greatly benefited from the new mail ballot system.
In addition to failed legal challenges, supporters of Giron and Morse have pushed failed narratives which have largely backfired.
A Whole Lot of People for John Morse was created by allies of John Morse last spring. The group’s first campaign attempted to build a narrative in which Morse was the victim of interference from interests outside Colorado. In June, Morse tweeted from his personal account that he intended to fight the recall and would not allow “outside interest groups to determine what is best for Colorado.”
That narrative fell apart when it became apparent that A Whole Lot of People for John Morse was funded by national groups with connections to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. By June, three outside interest groups provided nearly 77 percent of the total contributions to the group.
Morse allies also launched a radio and robo call campaign which warned citizens that the recall supporters may come to their door for signatures, and not to sign. Media Trackers revealed how at one point, the narrator said: “Criminals, convicted of forgery, fraud, and even sexual assault – if they are not already, these workers will be in your neighborhood soon.”
When the Giron recall began, the group spread the campaign down to Pueblo to help the supporters of Angela Giron. But, since the group never provided any specific evidence of a recall supporter with a criminal record, their tactics did not prevent citizens from signing the petition.
After these attempts to intimidate voters with scare tactics, both campaigns to recall Morse and Giron turned in more than enough signatures to force a recall election to be held.
While lawyers continued to explore legal challenges to the recall, supporters of Giron and Morse began to canvass neighborhoods in an attempt to convince petition signers to remove their names from the petition.
Not only did the groups fail to remove the necessary names, but they also hired a convicted criminal, Elric Franco. Franco was arrested while canvassing a neighborhood in support of Angela Giron.
Franco had a criminal record, with a history of assault and child abuse. This picture was on his Facebook page before the story broke and he removed it.
The lawyers for Morse and Giron went on to challenge the legality of the recall petition language in an attempt to circumvent the recall election. When Secretary of State Scott Gessler rejected the protest, a lawsuit was filed in order to continue to delay the recall process.
Judge Hyatt heard the case, and ruled against the lawsuit on July 18th. In his ruling Hyatt stated that “the court finds that the recall process involves fundamental rights of republican form of government which the people have reserved to themselves.”
Hyatt’s ruling forces yet another narrative change. Giron and Morse supporters now question whether the recall of Morse and Giron is a legitimate use of the recall process.
A Whole Lot of People for John Morse recently posted an article from the Gazette which listed reasons the recall is not legitimate. The article claimed that the recall sets a bad precedent, undermines the system of checks and balances, and that the issues should be left to reelection when the time comes.
The supporters of the recall effort have been responding to these type of claims for months. Pueblo Freedom and Rights told Media Trackers that recalls are not intended only for ethical issues or illegal activities. In the case of an ethical or legal issue, the appropriate administrative court or ethics committee would handle the elected official.
Pueblo Freedom and Rights argues: “We are recalling a senator for voting against the will of the people, which is exactly what a recall is supposed to be used for. It is a tool to be used by the people when elected officials stop listening to the people.”
Gessler’s office released a statement on the recall elections earlier today in which Gessler says “every eligible voter will have the chance to cast a ballot on September 10.” Gessler went on to explain how the nearly 900 overseas and military voters will be able to use the electronic mail ballot delivery system for the recall election.
Gessler said the system, first deployed last year, “worked extremely well, contributing to a 65% jump in turnout, even while most states saw a drop.” According to the press release, “a large majority of our military and overseas voters have already signed up for electronic ballot delivery.” While many of those voters have already received a ballot, Gessler assured that the system would be able to handle any additional candidates, should any arise.
The recall election is set for September 10th. Bernie Herpin will be running against John Morse and George Rivera against Angela Giron.