On Tuesday the Colorado secretary of state’s office certified ballot language for the recall and special election targeting Colorado State Senate President John Morse. Ballots are scheduled to land in voter mailboxes as early as August 20.
The special election, spurred by Morse’s support in the spring for gun-control legislation, is unprecedented. The special election ballot too is unique. It includes statements from groups supporting and opposing the recall and asks voters to vote up or down on the recall and then on a possible replacement lawmaker. If you don’t answer the first question — “Shall John Morse be recalled from the office of State Senate, District 11?” — you don’t get to vote for successor candidate Bernie Herpin or a write-in candidate.
The ballot language from the pro-recall folks appears first on the ballot. It will look familiar to anyone who has answered their door in Senate District 11 for a recall petition circulator. It’s the exact same statement from the highly contentious petition that was twice-approved by the secretary of state’s office earlier this summer.
The language defending Sen. Morse comes last and it’s new, though it too had to be approved by the secretary of state.
Colorado Springs-Pueblo based TV station KOAA posted the then-unofficial language at its website Monday.
Statement of Grounds for the Recall of Senator John Morse
Senator John Morse (D- Colorado Springs) has failed to represent the interests of his constituents and has taken direction from national organizations that do not represent the values and liberties of Colorado citizens. Despite having sworn to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States and of Colorado, he has shown contempt for the constitutional liberties of the people he represents.
He proposed legislation that shifted liability to firearms manufacturers and gun owners from violent criminals where it rightfully belonged. His legislation was drafted with significant input from the Brady Campaign, which attempts to subvert the Second Amendment rights of citizens.
He has limited public debate in the Senate and thereby minimized the opinions of Colorado citizens but permitted celebrities from other states to express their opinions on Colorado bills. These actions have shown contempt for firearm manufacturers and for the rights of Colorado citizens. Additionally, it was clearly an abuse of the coercive powers of government. Senator Morse’s abuse of his office and his failure to respect the rights and interests of his constituents necessitates his recall from office as the only reasonable and available means to defend the inalienable liberties of the citizens of his district.
Senator John Morse’s Statement
Vote NO on the out-of-state billionaires and extremists who are wasting $150,000 of our tax money and spending millions on a negative campaign to recall your twice-elected senator, John Morse. They are doing this because John responsibly voted to require criminal background checks for gun purchases.
In the state senate, his priorities are public safety, creating new jobs, strengthening our economy, and helping our veterans who have defended our freedom.
John Morse has spent most of his life serving our community as a paramedic, police officer and Police Chief. He has firsthand experience treating gunshot victims on the streets of Colorado Springs and has been shot at himself.
He led the fight to crack down on sexual predators and put them in prison where they belong.
Join John in voting NO to protect our kids.
Vote NO on felons and spouse abusers buying guns. Say NO to extremists.
Vote NO on recalling John Morse because it is Better to be Safe than Sorry.
Shall John Morse be recalled from the office of State Senate, District 11?
Yes _____ No _____
You must vote yes or no on the recall question in order to vote for a successor. No vote cast will be counted for any candidate for the office unless the voter also voted for or against the recall of the incumbent.
Candidates nominated to succeed John Morse should he be recalled:
(Vote for One)
(01) Bernie Herpin (Republican) (02) Write-in _______________
So who wrote the historic ballot?
“Senator Morse submitted the language against the recall,” said the Senator’s issue-campaign manager Christy Le Lait. She said the order of the statements on the ballot was determined by statute.
Colorado law also prescribed, to a certain degree, the nature of the content Morse offered in his defense.
“The Constitution says that the person being recalled has to provide a justification for their course of action,” explains Ryan Parsell, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder spokesman.
In this case, the course of action being justified refers to Morse’s gun-control votes, which his ballot language calls “reasonable.” It could also apply to the pro-recall accusation that Morse “limited public debate in the Senate and thereby minimized the opinions of Colorado citizens…”
Morse’s ballot language doesn’t specifically address that claim because, says Le Lait, it isn’t true.
“They’re claiming that, when the bill came up for testimony in committee, he somehow changed the Senate rules, which is not true. He did not change the rules, and he doesn’t have that power. People were asked to limit their testimony to 2 to 3 minutes, which is standard procedure for bills that get a lot of attention,” Le Lait said, pointing to legislation like the high-profile same-sex civil unions bill that also passed in the spring.
“They had something like 12 hours of testimony,” she said about the gun laws. “There was equal time on both sides of the debate.”
Colorado citizens, specifically those residing in Morse’s district, will have ample opportunity to weigh in now, particularly given recent legislation that puts inactive voters back on the ballot mailing lists. In fact, the special election will be the first in the state governed by new laws that, among other things, require clerks to send ballots by mail to every eligible voter.
“A much wider group of folks are going to get ballots than before, roughly 53,000 versus 68,880,” says Parsell.
Parsell said his office will mail ballots to overseas voters this Friday. Residents’ ballots will go out on Monday the 19th, arriving in mailboxes a day or two later. Voters can now also same-day register and vote in-person at four locations in the downtown Colorado Springs district.
“The voter centers open, believe it or not, on Monday September 2nd,” says Parsell. The four centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding Sunday, until the 9th. On Election Day, September 10th, they’ll be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Parsell says results of the election will be made available “anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes after 7 p.m. on Election Day, with updates coming every half hour.”
The clerk’s office also will be tweeting and facebooking the results as they develop.
Also on HuffPost:
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.