In Which Matt Arnold Spills The Beans

Matt Arnold, the occasional failed Republican candidate for office, face of the "Clear The Bench" campaign against Colorado Supreme Court Justices, and now blogger writing at The Examiner, has a very interesting opinion about the role of the courts in the recall special elections in Pueblo and Colorado Springs this week:

[D]espite the massive spending on the advertisements and volunteer-intensive “get out the vote” efforts, the electoral outcome was shaped far more by less-noticed, but ultimately MUCH more impactful, battles in the state courts…

[J]ust as the first mailing of ballots (to overseas voters) was starting, yet another court challenge was filed, seeking to uphold the constitutional provisions (and timelines) for candidate ballot access (which were incompatible with the recently-passed “all-mail-ballot-elections” legislation, HB13-1303). This time around, the challenge (and the primacy of the Colorado Constitution over statute) won – forcing the elections to be held primarily as polling-place elections, since the candidate certification deadline of 15 days before the election date made “all-mail-ballot” voting practically impossible.

This case may have been the most important in shaping the ultimate outcome of the Recall elections – possibly even saving the Recall effort, since “all-mail-ballot” voting favors the (Democrat) incumbents… [Pols emphasis]

Arnold gets a dig in on Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, who (at least at first) supported mail ballots:

(Note: Losing incumbent state senate president John Morse blamed his loss on the lack of an "all-mail-ballot" election; ironically, Colorado Republican state chair Ryan Call had opposed the lawsuit and criticized the court ruling which set aside the "all-mail-ballot" provisions of the recently-enacted election law for the Recall vote).

As we noted in our initial recap of this week's successful recalls of Democratic Colorado Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron, the margin in Morse's race was very small. Morse's defeat can in fact be fully accounted for by balloting problems stemming from court action before the election. Chief among these problems was the withholding of mail ballots following a minor-party challenge, the lawsuit Arnold refers to above. In the Senate District 11 recall, questionable decisions by a partisan county clerk affecting vote center locations and operating hours further impacted the ability of Democrats to get out the vote. But in a state that has been carrying out routine mail ballot elections for some years now, the court-ordered delay which prevented the delivery of most mail ballots, even to so-called "permanent" vote by mail voters, can easily itself account for 343 votes–the preliminary margin of defeat in Morse's recall.

To be clear, there are a number of factors that can hypothetically account for that slim margin of victory for Republicans in SD-11, or at least keeping this race out of recounts–including, ironically, the very same last-minute registrations the GOP decried as part of this year's election modernization law House Bill 1303. But the loss of mail ballots is probably the change most problematic for individual voters. When Arnold says that stopping mail ballots may have been "the most important [factor] in shaping the ultimate outcome of the recall elections," even "saving the recall effort," it's not because of fraud. It's just about fewer people voting.

So, obviously, triumphant Republicans don't want to get bogged down by quibbles about the mechanics of this election. Despite the fact that the margin in the SD-11 recall was very thin, and arguably indicative of a playing field judicially stacked against the incumbent as much as any other factor, Morse's recall is being sold as a game-changing grassroots insurrection against Democrats. The press doesn't seem to want to get into these procedural weeds either, at least not yet. And let's be frank: nothing we're describing here can account for Giron's much wider margin of defeat in Pueblo, where something altogether different and unexpected occurred.

You won't find it in GOP-approved Morse talking points, but Arnold is admitting something very important here.

34 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. EccentricRepublican says:

    Stop deluding yourselves, liberals. A 343 vote sleeping giant has awakened!

  2. dwyer says:

    I don't understand the mail ballots.  Were voters disenfranchised?  Specifically, people who requested mail ballots or anticipated them because they were going to be out of town, or were homebound due to disease or disability or age: as well as military personnel serving overseas, were not able to vote. That is not fair.


    • I'm with you here, dwyer. I think the judge should have gone further in her ruling and allowed mail balloting by extending the counting timeframe for mail ballots so as not to disenfranchise voters. I know that's judicial activism of a sort, but dismantling the candidate sign-up deadline while leaving the mail counting deadline intact was unfair to voters who might have otherwise voted but for the lack of time to get everything sent and back.

      • nota33 says:

        70% of Coloradans use mail in ballots. If these were allowed to be used, Giron and Morse would still be senators. The gun nuts only won because of a low turnout and no mail in ballots being used. The stupid libertarians who had no chance of of winning cost Morse and Giron their seats. Herpin is terrible and Rivera will pander to his base of gun hugging republican extremists in Pueblo. Stopping the radical right wing agenda is what democrats in the legislature need to focus on. Gun control is a winning issue, but if you don't get your supporters out to vote, you're not going to win. Using a mail in ballot is much more convenient than running down to A voting place.

  3. nota33 says:

    And the righties think Tom Tancredo has a chance of beating Hickenlooper. We need to remind the people of Colorado that Tancredo is a racist.

  4. ElliotFladen says:

    Citing Matt Arnold for a political point is like citing Bleacher Report for a sports point

  5. nota33 says:

    19,000 democrats in Pueblo did not vote in this recall. Probably because they didn't want to vote in person. Mail in ballots would have secured a Giron and Morse victory. Democrats can sometimes be lazy when it comes to voting. Mail in ballots in 2014 puts us democrats in a very good position. To Mick the idiot, democrats control the legislature you moron. Mail in ballots are something that is used by 70% of Coloradans you clueless idiot. Radical republicans oppose main in ballots because mail in ballots because they give a big advantage to democrats

    • DavidThi808 says:

      Morse probably would have won with mail ballots.

      Giron, I don't see it. She lost by a lot.

      • nota33 says:

        19,000 democrats in Pueblo did not vote in the recall election. 4000 is not that many. Mail in ballots would have helped both Giron and Morse defeat their recall.

        • BlueCat says:

          Don't confuse people who frequent political sites with the vast majority who don't follow politics at all. Most people couldn't tell you who their state rep or state senator is.  Many probably first became aware of the recall and the names and party affiliation of those being recalled when they were petitioned.

          If you don't believe that most people pay so little attention to anything below US Congress try canvassing some time. See how many doors it takes to find someone who can name their state legislators, even if they voted in the last election. See how many know what district they're in or the difference between state districts and congressional districts. I warn you, it will be depressing. 

          We live in a country where getting more than half of the voters to vote is a strong turn out and many of those, in a regular election, only vote the top tiers of the ticket. Low turn out for an election like this is the norm. When you talk about a good turn out, you're just talking about better than the dismal usual, nothing close to full participation.  And voter suppression tactics only workwhen a race is close.

          Giron's wasn't. For whatever reasons (I don't live anywhere near Pueblo so wouldn't know)  too many were strongly motivated to kick her out and not enough were strongly motivated to defend her. She couldn't have won even if the dust up with mail in never happened.

  6. Gray in Mountains says:

    the mail ballot issue and the timing issue re other candidates in cases of recall can be solved next session….. if the Dems hold together with zero defections

  7. gaf says:

    the constitutional provisions (and timelines) for candidate ballot access which were incompatible with the recently-passed "all-mail-ballot-election" legislation, HB-1303.

    That myth keeps being repeated. However, the previous law–that law that would have been in place had HB-1303 never passed–was incompatible not only with all-mail-ballot-elections, but with any recall election that allowed mail ballots (e.g., polling place election with the previous option for requesting a mail ballot). It was not a new problem introduced by 1303.

  8. Not Dame Edna says:

    I spent some time walking in the Springs and talked to folks who worked the Pueblo recall. 

    After talking to voters in COS, I am certain Morse would have easily won if mail in ballots had been allowed. And based on my conversations with those in the know in Pueblo, I don't think it would have made a difference. The politics in Pueblo are beyond my understanding but they were unhappy with Angela for whatever screwy they have. Democrats there voted against her and mail in ballots would not have helped

    • nota33 says:

      I am going to have to disagree with you. 19,000 registered democrats in Pueblo did not vote. Most of these people who wanted the recall are hardcore gun nuts. Some of them are unfortunately democrats. If mail in ballots were allowed, I believe there was a good chance Giron would have defeated this recall. The people of Pueblo are going to find out how much it sucks to have a republican represent you. The gun nuts were more motivated to get out and vote and those who support Giron weren't. I do not believe for a second that these gun nuts are the majority of Pueblo residents. if this was true, Obama would have never won Pueblo because the republicans and the NRa have been saying for years that Obama hates the 2nd amendment. It is all about turnout and many democrats not voting in the recall is the reason why Giron lost and of course mail in ballots played a big role in that.

      • BlueCat says:

        The polling done by PPP backs you up. It showed her way behind. Apparently it so surrprised them that they were sure it must be in error and suppressed it. Don't know much about Pueblo but do know that here in Colorado there are lots of elderly  registered Dems who are quite conservative on a lot of issues.

        • speedyexpress48 says:

          Honestly, I wonder that the fact that Dems nationwide, especially in CO, becoming more socially liberal is slowly losing Pueblo for us…but ironically, because of demographics, will move CO Springs onto our side eventually.

          Of course, the big effect will be in the Denver suburbs, which are generally economically conservative but socially liberal (opposite of Pueblo).

        • BlueCat says:

          Oops. Meant that as reply to Dame Edna,  The PPP backs up Dame Edna's judgement that Giron wouldn't have won.

          I think nota33 is dreaming. And after reading about Giron's stubborn insistence on CNN that she lost only and completely because of voter suppression when she lost by double digits, I've got to say, I'm not impressed with her character or style.

          Dirty tricks simply do not change elections by double digits. Sorry. If that were possible, you can bet Obama never would have been elected. On the other hand, if Gore had been a better candidate that election wouldn't have been close enough to steal. 

          Time for Giron and her supporters to stop whining and realize she just didn't have enough strong support. Morse almost certainly could have won.  At best Giron could have lost by a few points less.  Let's not dilute the credibility of the argument that Morse was defeated by voter suppression machinations with sour grapes over Giron.  

          • nota33 says:

            Both of these recalls were winnable. I don't support Giron's claim that voter suppression cost her the recall. Some important things to mention that no mail in ballots were allowed. That right there probably cost her quite a few supporters of hers and 19,000 democrats in Pueblo did not vote in the recall. The gun nuts took advantage of an off year election.

      • Not Dame Edna says:

        I know Sen. Giron and I am so proud of her courage to do the right thing in the face of a lot of ugliness. I was really proud of her conscession speech. I was surprised by the results but still don't think mail in ballots would have helped her. As BC points out, the PPP polling bears that out.

        I do believe that one session with George Rivera will be more than than the good Democrats, gun nuts or not, of Pueblo can take. And the seat will end up blue again. Probably the same for Mr. Herpin in the Springs.

        • speedyexpress48 says:

          If these margins say anything, the Springs seat is more likely to flip. And Morse's district is actually somewhat liberal (Manitou and downtown COS) while Pueblo has a large conservadem base.

          Of course, both are nuts and probably will embarass their districts a lot in 2014.

  9. nota33 says:

    I really hope Giron thinks about running again in 2014. She is on the right side of history.  It will be hard for George Rivera to hold onto the seat in 2014.

    • BlueCat says:

      Don't think that would be a good idea at all considering that her recall wasn't even close.

      • nota33 says:

        Only 4000 votes. There are different reasons why Giron was recalled. Not having mail in ballots and the fact that 19,000 democrats did not vote in the recall election.

        • BlueCat says:

          And when did all the eligible Dems or Rs or anybody else ever vote in an election?You're deluding yourself. I recommend volunteering to do door to door canvassing or phone banking for a state Sen. or Rep campaign so you can learn what to realistically expect in terms of participation and in terms of the average registered voters interest in or knowledge of local politics. One more time. Suppression efforts and dirty tricks can shave a couple of points in a close election. That's all. They can't turn victory into blow out defeat. 

          • nota33 says:

            If we had mail in ballots, thousands of more people would have voted in the recall. You seem to think that gun nuts are the majority in Pueblo, they are not. The gun nuts were more MOTIVATED to get out and vote than Giron's supporters.

            • BlueCat says:

              Not at all. I simply believe that the polling was very close to accurate and that 1) the number you are assuming would have voted is way overblown compared to average voter participation and 2) you are mistaken in assuming that all of the Dem votes would have gone against the recall. Once again that was not reflected in the polling. PPP is both reputable and somewhat left leaning so their results are usually very close to accurate with, if anything, perhaps a one to three point advantage to the Dem in most races. 

              While her defeat may well have been by a few points less It is improbable beyond belief that she would have won. The polling actually showed a defeat similar to the one she suffered.  I'm not the one making unreasonable assumptions here. Sorry. 

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