DENVER — Century-old elections language sparked a fiery partisan debate in the Colorado Senate on Thursday as Democrats steered through an update to recall laws despite complaints that they're trying to change the rules in their favor.
The bill updates dusty recall requirements that were written long before modern elections procedures such as mail-in voting. The bill was approved on an unrecorded voice vote and faces a more formal vote before heading to the House.
Democrats say the bill is not an attempt to make it harder to recall public officials, even though two of their own were ousted last year in the first state legislator recalls in Colorado's history.
Former Sens. Angela Giron and John Morse were recalled by voters and replaced with Republicans after they supported gun control measures opposed by the GOP.
Those recalls were plagued by confusion because of outdated elections code.
For example, the state constitution gives candidates until 15 days before a recall election to qualify for the ballot. But that's not enough time for elections clerks to accommodate federal requirements to get ballots to military and overseas voters.
The elections code also sets different requirements for petition-gatherers for recalls and petition-gatherers for other ballot efforts.
"This is just taking the experience from last year and making our laws more understandable for everyone involved," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver.
Republicans scoffed at the change, saying that elections losers frequently want to change how elections are run.
"We are not the marketing arm of partisan political activities in here, though sometimes it feels like it," said Republican Leader Bill Cadman.
The recalls of Giron and Morse in September left Democrats with a precarious one-seat majority in the Senate. A third Democrat targeted for potential recall resigned rather than face voters, a maneuver to allow Democrats to appoint her successor and guarantee Senate control.
Republicans took special aim at a portion of the bill that redefines "Election Day" as the day voting begins, not the day an election is called.
"We're redefining Election Day here, and that's something I don't think we can do," argued Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.
Democrats insisted they're simply trying to resolve problems that weren't revealed until last year.
"The recall elections were very confusing to voters, and many people did not participate," said Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville.
Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt .
Senate Bill 158: http://bit.ly/1iWtpre