COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., August 13, 2013—Monday evening Denver District Judge Robert McGahey ruled in favor of the Libertarian Party’s lawsuit to allow candidates up until 15 days prior to the September 10 recall election to qualify for the ballot. This ruling upholds the state constitution, which mandates it.
Under the recently-enacted House Bill 1303, state election law was changed to allow all mail-in ballot recall elections. To meet the deadlines imposed by such an election, candidates were given only until July 29 to collect 1000 signatures—10 days from when Gov. Hickenlooper belatedly set the election date.
Potential candidates now have until August 26 to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot, making it impossible for county clerks to then print and mail ballots to voters. The election, therefore, will now be an in-person one.
In choosing between the state constitution and the recent statute calling for mail ballots and early voting schedules, Judge McGahey said it would be an “absurd result” to ignore the constitution’s direct wording on recall candidates.
In addition, Judge McGahey ripped the legislature for “Writing an election law so clearly non-compliant with the state Constitution….With all due respect to the legislature, it did not consider or ignored the clear language of Article XXI - I find that both sad and, frankly, shocking.”
The major parties did not agree.
Democrats, usually unconcerned with how tax dollars are spent, objected to the extra cost involved. Pueblo Clerk and Recorder “Bo” Ortiz said “I know I’ll be tossing out 100,000 or so ballot envelopes that have ‘recall election’ already printed on them.” Generic ballots will be cheaper to print and won’t have to be mailed.
Ortiz also testified against following the constitution, stating that the language dated back to 1912. For Democrats, everything that occurred before last week’s Real Housewives of New Jersey is seen as ancient history and something to be dismissed out of hand. The judge, however, understood that the constitution is the supreme law of the state. He responded this way, “Do we look up from the statutes and say the constitution is unreasonable?”
Yesterday, he did not.
Republicans also objected to the ruling. State GOP Chair Ryan Call issued a statement today that said “…it appears that our servicemen and women are the ones who will bear the brunt of Sens. Morse and Giron’s careless work [drafting the new law]. Today’s decision is disappointing, and Colorado deserves better, especially those serving overseas.”
Perhaps it is the Colorado GOP that deserves better. What Call’s statement ignores is the fact that military voters in this recall election have more flexibility and options than any other voters. They may receive their ballots by internet, email, fax or mail. They may return their ballots by mail or electronically. Their mail ballots are allowed an extra eight days to arrive after election day. Clerk Ortiz demonstrated for both Republican and Democrat officials in Pueblo how this electronic voting works.
Ballots for 650 military voters in Senate District 11 were already mailed out on August 9. Those ballots would presumably be valid if no one else succeeds in petitioning on to the ballot. Furthermore, the ballot consists of two parts and the first, recall part could still be valid. These questions have not yet been addressed.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party and the grassroots efforts to recall Senators Morse and Giron welcomed the ruling, as did the Pueblo GOP.
“We’re extremely pleased the judge recognized the constitution is the supreme law of the land,” said Jeff Orrok, chairman of the Colorado Libertarian Party. “The 26th is fast approaching, and we’ll look to get our candidates on the ballot.”
Victor Head, of the Pueblo Freedom and Rights committee said he agreed with the judge’s ruling. “You need more than 10 days to petition onto a recall ballot,” he said.
Rob Harris of the Recall Morse committee also agreed with the decision.
Becky Mizel, chair of the Pueblo County GOP, said, “The Pueblo County Republican Party respects the decision of Judge McGahey’s ruling in favor of the Colorado Constitution.” She also said that “…the “disenfranchisement” of the military vote is a ruse, let’s not fall for this false excuse and disguise in yet another attempt to disregard the Colorado Constitution.”
Indeed, discomfort is not disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement occurs when a qualified elector is denied the right to vote. When a voter is merely inconvenienced, he is not disenfranchised. There are many accommodations made for those who may be old, infirm or temporarily out of the district.
Democrats, however, don’t see it that way. In Pueblo County, union members were seen in the November 2012 election collecting ballots by the hundreds and turning them in to the clerk and recorder’s office at all hours.
“Are we going to follow our constitution and hurt our democracy in doing so?” asked Ortiz earlier in the day.
Aristotle was the first to make the distinction between democracy and republic. Democracy is mob rule. A republic is the rule of law, in our case under a written constitution at both state and federal levels.
Today we can answer Mr. Ortiz in the affirmative: the elections will be held according to the rule of law.
At The Voice of Liberty, we seek to advance the principles of liberty, because tyranny never sleeps.
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