by Marissa Lorenz
The Recall Polis petition was in the Kremmling Town Square last week, with local proponents discussing their reasons for desiring a recall and soliciting signatures. It was the physical manifestation of a grassroots effort that has been months in the making on-line, on social media, and in towns across the state.
Colorado is one of 19 states that allow for state-level recalls, given a State Constitutional amendment from 1912, while most states permit recalls at the local level. Local recall elections have happened continually over the last 100 years of Colorado politics. However, 2013 was the first year in which the law was used to support the recall of two state legislators, mostly over regulation of gun ownership.
The process is a regulated one. According the the Colorado Secretary of State (SoS), a recall petition to recall a state-level office-holder must be created and approved by the SoS office. In most circumstances, the official must hold office for six months before a recall can be attempted and cannot be recalled if their term will expire within six months. A signature petition must receive 25 percent of the total votes cast at the last general election for that office. Finally, if the petition is determined to have the correct number of valid signatures, a question of whether or not to recall the official will be placed on the next ballot.
The attempt to recall Jared Polis is the first for a Colorado governor. The current circling petition was approved in July of this year and must have 631,266 verified signatures of registered Colorado voters by September 6 in order to have a recall question on the November ballot — an unusually high number, given that Colorado had the second highest voter turnout for the 2018 mid-term elections, an election that itself had the highest mid-term participation percentage since 1914. 61 percent of eligible Colorado voters went to the polls last November and 49.3 percent of eligible Americans voted. That is compared to 36.7 percent nationally in 2014, the lowest turnout in 72 years.
The issue has been further complicated by the confusion of two groups talking of a Polis recall. One group had identified itself as the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis group, while the other group just goes by either Recall Polis or Dismiss Polis. The Recall/Dismiss Polis group is the group circulating the petition seen town-to-town. Inca, a spokesperson and board member for Recall/Dismiss Polis emphasizes that they are “absolutely not affiliated with the Official Recall Polis group.”
She clarifies that Official Recall Polis is the group that had collected about $109,000 in donations and has since dissolved. $29,657 of the support collected was then “funneled” to another political group, Coloradans for Trump. Both the Official Recall Polis Group and the Coloradans for Trump have the same registered agent, Juli-Andra Fuentes, for whom contact information has not been found. Inca stresses that Recall/Dismiss Polis do not agree with the “funnelling of monies” that has occurred by the other organization.
She would prefer to bring the conversation back to the issues and points to the groups website, RecallPolis.com, for more information. That page lists six major issues causing concern:
• The so-called Red Flag bill, HB 19-1177, permitting law-enforcement to confiscate guns and weapons if a report of mental health concern has been issued
• Gas and Oil Regulation, specifically Senate Bill 181, which opponents claim will prevent new development in Colorado, but the language of which reads that it actually gives more decision-making to local municipal and county governments
• The National Popular Vote Bill, SB 19-042, an interstate agreement to give state electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote
• The attempt to repeal or modify TABOR, a 1992 Colorado Constitutional amendment which caps how much residents can be taxed without voter approval, but which cap has not increased at the same rate as the economy, impacting taxation for schools and other services as well
• Sex Education or HB 1032, requiring a mandated curriculum in public schools, with the inclusion
of conversations on such topics as gender-identity and gender transition, and without notification to parents
• Single-Payer Health Care, which has no specific challenges on the site Although neither the Colorado nor Grand County Republican parties are officially endorsing the recall effort, local residents have demonstrated support for the recall through everything from signing the petition to vocalizing opposition on social media. They echo concern over the issues outlined above and have even defended the booing of Polis at a recent ceremony of the Colorado State Fair.
Carl Wood, longtime resident and current chair of the Grand County Republican Party, has signed on
as a volunteer petition circulator.
He supports the recall effort as an individual voter because “first and foremost, it is the appropriate and official way to seek a do-over. Besides the focus issues, the governor has recently been pushing other agendas, such as anti-beef, which are contrary to Colorado’s character and heritage. When the governor is picking special interests that aren’t in the state’s interest, we should have a do-over.”
On the particular issues at question, he states, “most of them look good on the surface, it’s when you look at how they’re applied that there’s concern. The National Popular Vote act is throwing Colorado citizens under the bus. The process exists to ensure a voice to small and less populous states.” “It is a good thing to keep guns out of dangerous hands. But this law allows anyone to make complaints against anyone.” And “Local control of multi-billion dollar industries makes it impossible for large companies to work across frameworks. It effectively eliminates oil and gas drilling, because the companies don’t want to mess with differing regulations. Besides, I appreciate the prices at the pumps. I think we all depend on it. When you artificially remove supply, it hurts all of us.”
Other residents, however, hold different views of the issues. Bob Roller of Kremmling hopes for a reduction of gun violence, but is reluctant to trust the decision to law-enforcement without clear guidelines. He supports local decision-making on oil and gas, saying, “if you don’t want it in your community, you shouldn’t have to have it. And I don’t trust oil companies to make the best choice for us.” But his main issue is health care. “I have three daughters, all without health care at work. I don’t know what the solution is, but our system is messed up from top to bottom. The richest country in the history of the world should take care of their own.” And on the recall itself, he states,
“Polis has done some really controversial things, but that’s what most voters in the state voted him in to do.”
And the election numbers would support Roller’s view. Polis won the gubernatorial election with 53.42 percent of the vote, with Republican candidate Walker Stapleton garnering only 42.8 percent. The next highest votes went to the Unity Party and Libertarian candidates, but totaled only 3.77 percent between the two, not nearly enough to have won Stapleton the election if he got every one of their votes. Further, Polis ran his campaign on many of the topics of issue, especially oil and gas, renewable energy, TABOR reforms, and single-payer healthcare.
In sum, the challenge is large and an important deadline looms, but real energy continues to pervade the Recall/Dismiss Polis group. Inca is optimistic as she says, “We are an entirely grassroots effort. There are no large groups or large funding.
This is the people of Colorado being angry at the policies being set forth by Polis and his government. And we’re fighting back.” More information can be had at RecallPolis.com.
by Marissa Lorenz