Turnout low in Colorado Springs on recall’s final day

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Just after 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, several dozen volunteers gathered in the union hall that's serving as Sen. John Morse's campaign headquarters and prepared to hit the streets one last time.

"This is down to the final day," a coordinator told the troops. "We have 10 hours left."

The recall election here, along with one 30 miles south in Pueblo, is being watched closely by politicians, activists and observers on both sides of the national gun control debate.

If Morse, a Democrat, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, are successfully recalled over their support of Colorado's tougher new gun laws earlier this year, it'll be a setback to the national push for gun control, which already flamed out in Congress.

"Never give up," Morse told the volunteers in the union hall. "Never, ever give up. Now, go!"

As they fanned out again into neighborhoods, the canvassers -- many volunteers, many more political activists and veterans of many a Democratic campaign  -- met the usual mix of voters: those who've already cast ballots, those who planned to before the day is out, some who were still waiting for a mail ballot never to arrive, others who didn't even know an election was taking place and a few who needed rides to a polling center (that the campaign was happy to arrange).

"Every time I talk with a voter who's already voted against the recall or when I can help someone arrange a ride, that's reassuring," said Anneli Berubi, a staffer with Environment Colorado who's been knocking on doors in Colorado Springs for a week now.

"It calms me down. If I weren't out here, I'd be a nervous wreck."

But despite the Democrats' strong professional canvassing effort, operatives remained concerned as Tuesday morning became afternoon.

With mere hours remaining until polls close at 7 p.m., a large percentage of voters targeted by Democrats had yet to vote.

Tuesday's turnout, as of 3 p.m., was relatively weak: 2,548 total voters (897 Republicans, 885 Democrats and 773 unaffiliated voters).

Overall, 14,810 ballots had been received by El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams since the start of voting last Thursday.

In Pueblo, where early voting started a week earlier, more than 26,000 voters had already cast ballots by Monday night.

At the Centennial Hall polling center downtown Colorado Springs, voting was just starting to pick up in mid-afternoon.

"I'm here to recall Morse," said Ryan Roher. "If you don't respect gun rights, you don't respect the Constitution. That's all there is to it."

Delilah Wilson, who voted against the recall, was riled up, talking to herself as she left the polling place.

"This is such a waste of money," Wilson said of an election expected to cost El Paso County upwards of $300,000.

"We don't like a couple votes so we just recall him? What happens when we don't like the next guy in there. We going to recall him too?"

While the turnout numbers thus far seem to favor the pro-recall side, Bernie Herpin, the former city councilman on the ballot as a Republican to replace Morse, described himself as "nervous" Tuesday as he and about a dozen volunteers worked the phones.

"With no mail ballots and such a confusing election, it's just hard to gauge," Herpin said. "I'm cautiously optimistic, but a lot of people don't know they have to go vote in person so we're calling them to encourage them to vote and tell them how.

"I'll be calling people up to 10 minutes before the polls close saying, 'You've got 10 minutes to get the polls!'"

Herpin will be anxiously awaiting the first batch of returns at the El Paso GOP headquarters just after 7 p.m. when the polls close.

Morse's team will be doing the same at the Wyndham Garden Hotel downtown.

A couple miles away, the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the group of citizen activists that started the recall effort in Colorado after Democrats moved gun control measures through the legislature, will be watching the numbers from their own party at the Stargazer Theater.

Anthony Garcia, one of the group's founding members, is anxious too, but perhaps less concerned than Herpin and Morse with the election's final result.

"Honestly, I feel like we've already won," Garcia said. "We've done something no one thought we could do. And we did it without much money. We did it without much support.

"We did it with the will of the people."

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