Published: September 15, 2013
While I regret the outcome of the recall election, I'm more concerned about the threat to representative democracy. Fewer voters (9,100 or 13 percent of active voters today) managed to recall John Morse than voted to put him in office in 2010 (13,866 or 29 percent of active voters then). Does 13 percent mean Senate District 11 voters have spoken? I think not - this is no way to run a democracy. Employing recalls as a political weapon doesn't help legislators to make the tough calls.
Recall proponents want you to believe their efforts were pure: all about protecting your constitutional rights. The truth is your rights were never seriously threatened. Even arch-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted, "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." "[It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." That just makes sense. Morse and the Colorado Senate passed embarrassingly moderate gun safety legislation - legislation the NRA itself supported a decade ago. Think about that. Voters were told, however, that Morse sought to deny Americans their Second Amendment rights, to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, to smother debate, that he was the lackey of Denver/New York extremists. None of these assertions were true, but voters were influenced by the money funding repetition, and then yet more repetition, of these spurious assertions.
SD 11 voters became pawns in a proxy war between gun rights and gun control advocates across the country. Millions were poured into both sides. Reports made it seem as though the donations had been disproportionately going to the "No" side. Such summaries ignored unreported donations flowing, nonstop, into 501(c)(4)s and Super PACs. A small group of outsiders led the effort. They provided the seed money to pay for petitions and hold a special recall election. How does that represent Senate District 11?
Much was made of the expense to the El Paso County taxpayer, but now that money - not voter values - dictates voting outcomes, consider what we've lost. This isn't democracy; this is cashbox tyranny.
When the local GOP piled on, this unnecessary recall election metamorphosed into a referendum on HB1303, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act. Opponents of Sen. Morse used this bill as another example of Morse's pushing poorly conceived laws down the throats of Coloradans. In fact, the bipartisan Colorado County Clerk's Association proposed HB1303; conflict between the recall legislation and the state constitution predated HB1303.
This recall was simply NRA muscle-flexing. It worked. More insidious is that it was complemented by an opportunistic attack on voting rights. Morse was term-limited, anyway! He had five months to go. But now the NRA may have spooked legislators across the nation; and voter suppression efforts gained traction in Colorado - bad news for democracy.
History will prove John Morse was on the right side of the gun debate. We'll just have to wait for sanity to prevail.
Lois Fornander is a Colorado native and retired public high school teacher. Upon retirement in 2003, she became active in local political campaigns.