Morse-sponsored 'Colorado Voter Access' law violates state constitution

The Gazette editorial Updated: August 15, 2013 at 10:31 am • Published: August 14, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

In a twist of fate few anticipated, a bill sponsored by Senate President John Morse led a judge Monday to rule in a manner that may disenfranchise men and women from Colorado Springs who serve their country overseas. Because the new Morse law may block them from voting, it stands to benefit Morse in his upcoming recall election. Military personnel, after all, aren't known to vote for politicians who disrespect our federal and state constitutions.

Second Judicial District Judge Robert McGahey effectively invalidated all mail-in ballots for the Sept. 10 recall, including absentee ballots for deployed military personnel, because a new law sponsored by Morse conflicts with the state constitution.

More than 16,000 constituents of Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat, demanded a recall after feeling poorly served during the last legislative session. Morse raised utility rates, burdening Coloradans who struggle to get by. He tried to force firefighters to unionize in Colorado Springs, even though the public twice voted against it. Morse supported an assortment of other jobs-killing bills that caused a large primary employer and a national television production to abandon our state.

At issue is House Bill 1303, known to Morse and other proponents as the "Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act." When it became law, Democrats praised it as a new model for the rest of the country. Ironically, Morse and other advocates promoted the bill as something that might ease voting and enfranchise voters. It shortens the residency requirements, moves polling locations and generally reduces traditional eligibility standards for receiving mail-in ballots. The law even allows voter registration on the day of an election. Republicans say it will help Democrats by facilitating voter fraud. Whatever Morse intended, he didn't care much about the constitutionality of the bill.

The new Morse law also gives potential candidates up to 10 days after the governor sets the date of a recall election to turn in signatures for inclusion on a ballot as a potential replacement for a politician facing recall. There's only one problem, as determined by McGahey. The Colorado Constitution, which trumps the attempt by Morse to re-engineer our traditional election process, says potential candidates can petition onto a ballot up to 15 days before an election. Colorado Libertarian Party officials understand the state constitution, even obscure portions of it, and filed a lawsuit that asked McGahey to enforce it.

Because the judge enforced the constitution, rather than the Morse-sponsored law, there won't be time for every voter in Morse's Senate District 11 to receive mail-in ballots. Ballots that were already mailed to men and women serving overseas are no longer valid. Americans who serve in foreign lands, or even other states, won't be able to vote at District 11 polling locations.

"John Morse's radical legislation is yet another example of why he must be recalled," former City Councilman Bernie Herpin said in a written statement after the judge ruled.

Herpin, a retired Air Force and Navy officer, petitioned onto the ballot lawfully under either interpretation of the law. Even his daughter and son-in-law won't get to vote as a result of problems caused by the Morse-sponsored Access and Modernized Elections Act.

"With the passage of Senator John Morse's legislation, my son-in-law's vote could be invalidated," Herpin wrote. "What are he, my daughter and hundreds of other military men and women and their spouses suppose to do to have their voices heard in this recall election?"

Morse spent the past legislative session disrespecting his constituency while trying to deprive Coloradans of state and federal constitutional protections. That's why nearly 25 percent of registered voters in his district demanded a recall. It seems fitting that bipartisan chaos, in the effort to oust him, was caused by an unconstitutional provision of a Morse-sponsored bill.

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