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Deputy Secretary of State dismisses Morse protest of recall petitions

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert at a brief protest hearing Wednesday.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert at a brief protest hearing Wednesday.

DENVER — Late Wednesday afternoon, Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert ruled against state Senate President John Morse and decided that a recall election against the lawmaker should move forward.

Morse, D-Colorado Springs, is one of two lawmakers facing a recall from constituents angry about their support for gun control legislation this year.

Last week, Morse’s attorneys argued that the more than 10,000 recall petitions, certified by the Secretary of State’s office, should be invalidated because they didn’t include language informing signers that voters would have to pick the lawmaker’s successor in a recall election.

Mark Grueskin, the attorney for Morse, pointed to a case where petitions were thrown out for that reason.

But Staiert, a former district judge, ruled that the petitions are still valid, that the recall organizers “substantially complied with the constitutional and statutory recall petition requirements.

“Because an election will be called even in absence of the ‘demand’ language, the Secretary of State finds purpose of provision is achieved despite any alleged non-compliance,” Staiert concluded.

READ THE RULING HERE

Earlier Wednesday, Grueskin filed a motion asking Staiert to recuse herself and the Secretary of State’s office from the Morse and Giron protests because of an apparent bias on the part of Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Grueskin pointed to a Pueblo Chieftain article titled “Gessler gives GOP a primer on recalling Giron” that detailed his March appearance before a Republican group and the encouragement he offered them about launching a recall effort.

About 15 minutes after issuing her ruling in the Morse protest, Staiert issued another ruling denying Grueskin’s motion to recuse herself.

“The Secretary’s remarks were limited to the recall process in general,” Staiert wrote. “The Secretary of State is Colorado’s chief elections official and, as such, is the most qualified person to speak about such a process.

“Therefore, I find that, even if the Secretary had acted as hearing officer, there is no appearance of impropriety.”

READ THAT RULING HERE

Following the decisions, Grueskin is certain to file an appeal in district court challenging the Secretary of State’s office.

The group attempting to recall Morse called Wednesday’s decision a victory.

“The people have spoken,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Jennifer Kerns. “It is time for Sen. Morse to face his fate at the ballot box.”

It’s now up to Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to set a date for a recall election in Morse’s Senate District 11.