July 17, 2013 Updated: July 17, 2013 at 7:12 am
DENVER — Two Colorado Democratic senators facing recalls over their support for new gun restrictions are going to court Wednesday to try to prevent an election pending a judicial review of the process.
State Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Pueblo Sen. Angela Giron argue the recall petitions against them are invalid because they were improperly worded and didn't ask for an election to appoint a successor.
A Denver District Court judge will hear arguments Wednesday on whether a preliminary injunction should be granted.
Supporters of the recall maintain their petitions are valid. The Secretary of State's office has agreed and is seeking a court order to force Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper to set an election date. The judge is also considering that petition Wednesday.
Both lawmakers are being targeted because of their support for legislation that limits most ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and an expansion of background checks to include online and private firearm sales. Most Colorado sheriffs are also suing to overturn the laws, which took effect July 1.
No Colorado state lawmaker has ever faced a recall. The elections could come between early August and early September, unless a judge steps in and grants an injunction.
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said in both of her decisions declaring the recall efforts valid that the elections are "a fundamental right" and that the petitions met the legal threshold.
Attorney Mark Grueskin, who is representing Morse and Giron, has argued that petition signers didn't know exactly what they were signing. The petitions asked whether the lawmakers should be recalled but didn't ask whether an election should be held to appoint a successor. Grueskin contends that was a key omission in both petitions. He is citing a 2002 appellate ruling that sides with his argument. In that case, recall petition signatures for two Central City aldermen and the mayor were filed, but they didn't include language demanding an election.
But supporters of the recall have called the Democrats' legal challenges frivolous and are pushing for elections to be held as soon as possible.
Hickenlooper said Tuesday his office is trying to coordinate with the clerks in Morse and Giron's district to find one election date for both.
"I don't think it serves anybody to have two separate dates for an election in communities where they have overlapping television and radio," he said. He said he wants to find a date that maximizes voter turnout and gives candidates "the maximum amount of time to get their message out."
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