Gessler recall discussion heats up

Will Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler be subject to a recall vote? Democrats have been talking off the record about such a possibility for months, but on Wednesday Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio issued a statement that takes the discussion into the public.

Palacio’s statement came after Gessler testified against Senate Bill 12-109 in the House Local Government Committee. SB-109 was killed on a party-line vote after passing the Senate with bipartisan support.

SB 109 would have required every county in the state to mail ballots to all voters who wanted them — even those who had failed to vote in recent elections.

After the vote, Palacio issued the following statement:

“Colorado’s Republican Leader Scott Gessler has once again prioritized his partisan agenda above the rights of Coloradans to vote. If Scott Gessler is unwilling to fulfill his duties as a non-partisan election officer, the people of Colorado should consider all avenues necessary to remove him as Secretary of State.”

Reached today by phone, Democratic Party spokesperson Matt Inzeo said, “Rick is trying to have the appropriate conversations with people about what the next step should be. Everything needs to be on the table to prevent Gessler from getting between people and their ballots.”

Inzeo said Democrats are in the exploratory phase of talking to rank-and-file Democrats.

“Gessler has now shown exactly where he is coming from — his intention is to keep people from getting ballots,” he said.

There is now a Facebook page for people who want Scott Gessler to be removed from office.

Gessler’s spokesperson Rich Coolidge characterized Palacio’s statement as “a temper tantrum.”

He said Gessler had a number of reasons for speaking out against the bill. Among them, he said it would have required clerks to automatically update voter records when people file change of address forms with the Post Office. Currently, only a voter can update his or her status, Coolidge said.

He said the bill would have required clerks to update a lot of records by hand in a very short time frame between now and November and that there would have been significant cost involved in that.

“Secretary of State Gessler is working hard to improve the integrity of voting rolls,” Coolidge said, adding that Gessler remains committed to making sure all counties handle the issue of who gets a mail-in ballot consistently.

The bill had bipartisan–but not unanimous–support from county clerks.

The whole question of who should be mailed ballots was first raised about a year ago when Gessler sued county clerks in Denver and Pueblo to prevent them from sending ballots to people who did not vote in 2010. A judge sided with the clerks.

At the time, Gessler said the point of his suit was to ensure that all counties handle the issue the same way. He said some clerks were mailing ballots to inactive voters and some weren’t and that to be fair, all clerks should follow the same guidelines.

This bill would have done that by requiring that all counties mail ballots to all registered voters who sign up for them.

Gessler has been one of the more colorful secretaries of state in Colorado history. Shortly after taking office, he announced that the job really didn’t pay very well and he was going to continue working part time as an attorney.

He followed that up by reducing fines that had been levied by his office against the Larimer County Republican Party and then announcing that he would be the star attraction at a fundraiser to help the party pay the remainder of the fine.

Then he sued the Denver and Pueblo county clerks to stop them from mailing ballots to inactive voters, which brought prime-time exposure from the Rachel Maddow Show and others.

Throughout it all he has claimed that potentially thousands of non citizens are registered to vote in Colorado — but he has never named names or offered any proof that more than a handful of people vote illegally in any election.

Liberals have frequently pointed to Gessler as part of a growing national movement to make voting more difficult.

(Gessler photo by Dave Gill)

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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