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Colorado recall ballots go out as Libertarian Party tries to halt the process

By Megan Schrader Published: August 8, 2013 0

DENVER - Overseas ballots for the Sept. 10 recall elections are printed and ready to be mailed, but a lawsuit filed Wednesday threatens to once-again postpone the recall process.

Colorado's Libertarian Party sued Secretary of State Scott Gessler for access to the recall ballots for Democratic senators John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo.

According to the lawsuit, a Libertarian candidate in each district was denied access to the ballot because they missed the 10-day deadline in state statute to submit their petition to get on the ballot after the governor set an election day in July.

The state Constitution allows candidates 15 days to file their petition to get on the ballot.

"It is clear that this hasty rule by the Secretary of State conflicts with the Constitution, and we have filed suit to ensure that we have the full time granted by the people of Colorado," said Libertarian Party State Chairman Jeff Orrok in a prepared statement. "We oppose any attempt by the legislative or executive branches to deny our candidates, our members, and the voters of Districts 3 and 11 their fundamental rights and the ability to choose the best replacements for these overreaching senators."

Joining in the suit are the two would-be Libertarian candidates, Gordon Butt of Colorado Springs and Richard Anglund of Pueblo.

Meanwhile, both El Paso and Pueblo county clerks have begun printing ballots and will mail ballots to overseas military voters this week. It's unclear how the pending lawsuit might affect those plans or the election date set for Sept. 10.

A Denver District Court Judge will likely hear the complaint and make a ruling.

Richard Coolidge, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office, said the statue and the constitution are in conflict with one another, but that the recall elections require a shorter deadline so the ballots can be prepared in time.

"If they don't' get a hearing until next week they may say don't count those overseas ballots until the court comes back with a decision," Coolidge said. "This recall election they had a fairly significant amount of time because the governor didn't set the election date right away."

Giron and Morse were targeted for recall after the 2013 legislative session where they supported gun-control measures that became law. The measures ban magazines that hold more than 15 bullets and require background checks on all gun sales, even those between private parties.

Gun-rights advocates, upset at the lawmakers, organized through the Basic Freedom Defense Fund and collected enough signatures from registered voters to require a special recall elections.

Voters in both districts will be asked whether the lawmakers should be ousted from office. The ballot also asks voters to select a candidate to replace the senator should the recall be successful.

Republican candidate and former Colorado Springs City Council member Bernie Herpin successfully petitioned to have his name on the ballot in Senate District 11. And George Rivera, a Republican from Senate District 3, will be on the Pueblo ballot. There is also space to write in a candidate.

The election is unusual in that both sides were able to submit a set number of words to appear on the ballot in defense of their position.

"Senator John Morse (D- Colorado Springs) has failed to represent the interests of his constituents and has taken direction from national organizations that do not represent the values and liberties of Colorado citizens," reads the unofficial language from the recall petitioners.

Morse's statement begins: "Vote NO on the out-of-state billionaires and extremists who are wasting $150,000 of our tax money and spending millions on a negative campaign to recall your twice-elected senator, John Morse. They are doing this because John responsibly voted to require criminal background checks for gun purchases."

The 200 word to 300 word statements appear on the full ballot.

This will be the first election under a new law that allows voters to register to vote on election day and also requires mail ballots to be sent to every voter in the district. On election day precincts won't be open, but rather voter service centers will open for those wishing to vote in person.

Already, voters have started registering in response to the upcoming election.

Since the election date was set in July, 129 voters have registered in Senate District 11, including 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans, 76 independents, 2 Libertarians and 1 Green, according to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office. The total number of active voters in the district is now 69,085.

In Senate District 3 there has been less of a rush this past month on voter registration.

"I think we saw more people registering to vote or changing their address during the petition process than we are now," said Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz.

Between April and August, 1,572 voters registered in Senate District 3, including of 318 Democrats, 386 Republicans and 868 independent voters.

There's now 81,060 active voters in the district.

Voters wishing to obtain a ballot in the mail that they can then mail back or drop off at voting centers until election day, must be registered by Sept. 3. But voters can register anytime through Election Day and cast ballots at voter service centers.

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