Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has asked the state's attorney general to look into the historic recall elections taking place near Colorado Springs after a Republican activist changed his residency so he could vote in the recall election of Senate President John Morse (D) over his support of gun control legislation in the state.
Jon Caldara, president of right-wing think tank Independence Institute, which was involved in fighting the package of gun bills that were signed into law earlier this year in Colorado, switched his residency over the weekend from Boulder to El Paso County so he could vote in the Morse recall election.
Caldara wound up turning in a blank recall ballot, but his vote, which is being characterized as a "political stunt," has gotten the attention of Hickenlooper.
“We are hearing disturbing reports that some people are being encouraged to go to the polls, not to legitimately vote, but to disrupt the process," Hickenlooper said in a statement on Monday. "That would be unlawful and makes a mockery of the democratic process. We urge the county clerks in Pueblo and El Paso counties to make clear that people engaged in attempting to disrupt the elections are open to criminal prosecution. We’ve also reached out to the Attorney General to help us ensure fair elections take place this week.”
Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, both Democrats, face recall elections -- the first-ever of lawmakers in Colorado -- this Tuesday for their support of gun laws passed earlier in 2013 which included a 15-round limit on ammunition magazines and universal background checks for all private gun sales and transfers.
Caldara, who still maintains a residence in Boulder, has said that he is renting a room in Morse's Senate district near Colorado Springs on a week-to-week basis, but considers his new address his permanent residence.
"I'll see what the town is like," Caldara said. "I've heard great things about it. I'm looking forward to checking out Colorado Springs."
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said that if Caldara's intent is to make El Paso County his legal residence then he's not breaking the law.
And while some call what Caldara did as simply "stunt," others say it's illegal and that he should be charged with a felony.
"Jon Caldara is making a joke out of very serious election law, and he's just plain wrong about how election law works," said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of Democratic political group ProgressNow Colorado, in a statement. "Caldara says he's going to 'check out' Colorado Springs while he rents week to week from a former Republican legislator. That's a tourist, not a resident. The fact is, Jon Caldara lives in Boulder, not in Colorado Springs, and he is wilfully committing a felony by attesting otherwise--even if it's a 'political stunt.'"
In participating in the recall election, Caldara claims that he was simply pointing out a loophole in a new election law (HB-1303) passed by state Democrats and signed by Hickenlooper that changed residency requirements. Caldara claims the new legislation is flawed.
Caldara has made no secret of his opposition to the gun bills and his hope that the recall elections of two prominent Democratic lawmakers over their support of such laws would produce an environment so hostile that lawmakers would hesitate to support gun control legislation around the nation.
"If the president of the Senate in Colorado gets knocked out, there will be a shudder -- a wave of fear -- that runs across every state legislator across the country that says, 'I ain't doing that ever. That is not happening to me. I will not become a national embarrassment.' That's how big this is," Caldara said in August in a video obtained by ColoradoPols.
"It's ironic that the man who says he wants 'a wave of fear' from these recalls is afraid to fill out his fraudulent ballot, but he clearly wants to challenge the law," said Runyon-Harms. "So let's see who wins in court. Charge him."