Morse Recall Petitions Survive Constitutional Challenge

Sen. John Morse is currently State Senate President and in his final term.

With just moments to go before the decision deadline and the launch of the holiday weekend, the Secretary of State’s office announced its opinion that the petitions triggering a recall of state Senate President John Morse are constitutional.

Deputy Secretary Suzanne Staiert, the presiding officer in the hearing held last week on the matter, wrote that the laws governing petition formats must be interpreted broadly to favor citizen intent.

“The Morse recall petition format meets all constitutional and statutory requirements,” she wrote in her formal decision. “[T]he petition format laws must be liberally construed in favor of allowing the recall exercise; and Representatives substantially complied with the law even if the constitution and election code are interpreted to require the statement demanding election of a successor.”

Attorney Mark Grueskin, who represented parties questioning the legality of the petitions, argued the language of the petitions failed to mention that a recall would also necessarily include a special election, which would have to be funded by taxpayers.

Staiert not only decided that this language is not a part of the state’s constitutional or statutory requirements but further wrote that “Colorado Courts have long held that recall is a fundamental right that the people of Colorado reserved for themselves when they adopted the constitution… The people, in reserving the right of recall in the state constitution, could not have intended that the absence of a ten-word phrase on the face of a petition would invalidate the signatures of thousands of eligible electors, especially when that phrase calls for something inherent in the recall process.”

Staiert’s decision comes after much discussion of a potential conflict of interest in the case as well as Grueskin’s formal request that the office recuse itself from deciding on the hearing based on Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s alleged partisan allegiances to pro-recall groups.

Staiert denied the recusal request, asserting that she and Gessler have not communicated about the petition hearing decision.

Parties opposing the recall have said they will appeal the decision in court. If they fail to appeal the decision, or if the petition is again found sufficient, it will pass to Governor Hickenlooper, who is responsible for setting the date of the implied recall election within 60 days.

[Front image of Morse via ColoradoSenate.org]

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