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Gazette Premium Content Judge rules for Libertarians, putting new wrinkle in recall against Morse, Giron

By Megan Schrader Updated: August 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

DENVER - A shockwave reverberated through both side in the recall elections of two southern Colorado Democratic senators after a judge's ruling likely eliminates mail-in ballots for the looming Sept. 10 elections.

Judge Robert McGahey considered a lawsuit brought by the Libertarian Party saying they were wrongfully denied the ability to get a candidate into recall elections for Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo.

McGahey - in a decision that stunned many on Monday evening - ruled that potential candidates should have had until 15 days prior to the election to turn in enough signatures to get their names on the ballot. It's a part of the constitution that applies only to recall elections and is seldom used.

The ruling pleased neither Democrats or Republicans involved in the recall battles.

That provision of the constitution is in direct conflict with legislation overhauling the state's election process that became law this summer. The new law gave potential candidates 10 days after the governor set the date of the recall election to turn the signatures in and get their name on the ballot.

Richard Anglund, a Democrat from Pueblo, wanted to run as a potential replacement if Giron is successfully recalled. Gordon Butt, a Libertarian from Colorado Springs, wanted to put his name in as a potential replacement for Morse.

Both missed the new 10-day deadline.

Election law attorney Mark Grueskin argued the two candidates had plenty of time to get on the ballot - two Republicans successfully met the deadline.

Grueskin is the attorney on behalf of the groups trying to keep Morse and Giron in office. He urged McGahey to throw the case out on the grounds it was brought disingenuously by two candidates who didn't execute their rights when they had the chance.

Under McGahey's ruling, potential candidates will now have until Aug. 26 to file the proper forms and get their name on the ballots.

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams - who testified for about two hours on Monday - said the ruling makes it impossible for every voter in Morse's Senate District 11 to receive mail-ballots.

The new election law - House Bill 1303 - requires mail-in ballots to be sent to every registered voter in an election. It's a voting measure supported by Democrats who say it improves voter participation and access. But it is vehemently opposed by Republicans who say it increases the potential for fraud.

Williams was among those who testified against the bill.

"This bill really deserved far greater scrutiny than late-night hearings and late bills," Williams said. "It simply illustrates some of the issues that were raised and that's true anytime you rush through a bill without a full process."

The two Democrats who are facing recall because of their support of gun legislation would likely benefit from an all mail-ballot election.

While Republicans - who have candidates on both ballots already - would oppose possible splitting the vote with Libertarians.

Bernie Herpin, a former Colorado Springs City Councilman, is running to replace Morse.

"This ruling could prevent our patriotic military members whose ballots are already in the mail from having their votes counted," Herpin said.

Williams said he will work closely with Secretary of State Scott Gessler to ensure the election is fair and voters are able to cast their ballots.

He said that could mean opening several polling centers in the district for early voting and on election day.

But one thing is clear - mail-in ballots that were on the verge of being printed and sent to voters are on hold pending the addition of more candidates.

And ballots already mailed to overseas voters will be invalid if another candidate qualifies for the election.

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Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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