Just over a year into office, Colorado's Secretary of State Scott Gessler has likely made the headlines more than all previous Colorado secretaries combined.
Gessler raised eyebrows in 2011 when he instructed county clerks not to mail ballots to registered (but inactive) citizens in their counties. He based his decision on a belief the practice allowed nearly 5,000 non-citizens to vote in Colorado's 2010 election - a figure as-yet unsubstantiated and potentially closer to zero.
While some clerks fell in line and followed Gessler's directive, others didn't -- pointing out that Gessler's orders would prevent legitimate voters from participating, including members of the armed forces who hadn't been around to vote in 2010.
This all triggered a lawsuit, Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz and Denver's Clerk Debra Johnson both ended up on Rachel Maddow, and U.S. Representatives concluded Gessler's orders were "likely to disenfranchise eligible voters and should be condemned." Johnson and Ortiz won the suit and sent ballots to registered-inactive voters, but the larger issue of voter registration remained unsolved.
Fast-forward a couple months to the middle of Colorado's legislative session. Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, craft the bi-partisan Senate Bill 12-109 to set standards for the proper maintenance of voter registration lists. Despite passing out of the Senate 24-10, the bill died Wednesday in a Republican-controlled House committee on a party-line vote. Gessler had testified against the legislation.
Democrats hailed the bill's defeat as proof Gessler's interest isn't in voters having access to state-wide uniform ballots (as he claimed in the lawsuit), but in having control over who actually gets a ballot. A press-release from state Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio goes one step further, hinting at a recall effort:
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.
Is this an instance of election-year posturing, or do the Democrats really intend to attempt a recall? Regardless of the difficulty of such an undertaking, Colorado Pols argues "it's time to recognize how serious a threat to "small-d" democracy Gessler really is."
Either way, we're inclined to agree with Bob Loevy, a political science professor emeritus at Colorado College. “Getting sued is very much part of the job,” he told 5280 in their April 2012 feature on Gessler. “And both political parties in Colorado have become very litigious. There’s much more readiness on the part of the political parties to sue and see if the court will find things to their liking.”