Fact checking Wednesday's Gazette editorial


State Senate President John Morse
  • State Senate President John Morse
Today's editorial in the Gazette blaming Senate President John Morse for the latest recall snafu was so far removed from the truth that we couldn't let it pass without comment. 

Here are two major problems with its assessment of the situation:

Claimed by the Gazette“Second Judicial District Judge Robert McGahey effectively invalidated all mail-in ballots for the Sept. 10 recall, including absentee ballots for deported military personnel, because a new law sponsored by Morse conflicts with the state constitution.”

Fact-check: First, the new election law isn’t to blame for all the issues with mail ballots. Both county clerks involved in the recall, the Secretary of State, and leading members of the Republican and Democratic parties believed the two laws in question did not conflict. The fact that the judge decided they did conflict created only one problem with roots in the new election reform law: Mail ballots already sent to overseas voters — now required to go out 45 days in advance of an election — may not be valid.

But it’s the 100-year-old recall law that’s creating most of the headaches — headaches it would have created even if the election reform bill had never been written. The election timetable the recall law dictates is much too tight, meaning clerks can no longer send mail ballots to most voters. Depending on various factors, it could also eliminate all early voting, or even make the election impossible to carry out.

Second, it’s not clear whether mail ballots will be invalidated. If no other candidate qualifies for the ballot by Aug. 26, the ballots are still valid. Additionally, Secretary of State Scott Gessler is working on rules that might allow at least one question on the original ballots to be counted, even if a new candidate enters the race. Furthermore, overseas voters are being offered other ways to vote. In a e-mail today, Gessler stated:

Last year I deployed a statewide electronic mail ballot delivery system for military and overseas voters. It worked extremely well, contributing to a 65% jump in turnout, even while most states saw a drop.

That system is already at work in the recall elections. The large majority of our military and overseas voters have already signed up for electronic ballot delivery. They have already received ballots. If more candidates qualify, we will work with El Paso and Pueblo to get them new ballots quickly, through electronic ballots, fax, and expedited mail. Forward deployed service members can even radio their votes to their commanders, and we can accept those ballots eight days after the election. Finally, we’ll take additional steps, if necessary.

• Claimed by the Gazette: “More than 16,000 constituents of Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat, demanded a recall after feeling poorly served during the last legislative session.”

• Fact-check: First, Gessler found that only 10,137 petition signatures to recall Morse were from valid constituents. Furthermore, the Morse campaign has since brought forward strong evidence showing that at least some of those signatures were forged. District Attorney Dan May so far has failed to report on any investigating he may have done on that evidence.

Second, while the Gazette makes largely unexplained allusions to Morse votes on utility rates, collective bargaining and "jobs-killing bills" when positing that he provided poor "service" to his constituents, it disingenuously fails to mention the one issue that actually catalyzed the recall effort: his support of gun-control legislation. And it's worth noting that some petition-gatherers erroneously told citizens that Morse was trying to repeal the Make My Day law.

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