These last few weeks many of the nation's eyes have focused upon Colorado Springs, CO, that weird corner of the U.S. where contradictions and political battles seem to be periodically waged before getting franchised nationally. Outside the usual electoral cycle our community has become the next reluctant political battleground in in what I am beginning to describe as America's ongoing Cultural Cold War.
Tuesday's NY Times published a detailed overview for audiences outside of Colorado to get an idea of our significant election even (link here. Tuesday morning NPR did a similar broadcast version of essentially the same storyline. Both offered a foreboding potential that two Democratic legislators could be recalled for their leadership in Colorado's recent guns safety legislation. Until the last couple of weeks I too was seriously worried and thought that the party leadership and politicians had made strategic mistakes drawing a battle here, now I believe the nation will be surprised in a huge way.
Today as voting has officially begun I was privately given an insight to “internal polling” earlier in the week by a party official that strongly pointed to what is going to be a surprise---our way. For a few weeks now things have turned around at least for Morse in Colorado Springs as his staff and volunteers are made great inroads on the ground game overcoming voter apathy and support and all signs point to a big win. It is why the NRA ponied $250,000 more for the recall campaigns late last week (link here:) "They",meaning the NRA, doesn't do this because they think they're winning, they're doing it because things are going the other way badly and they feel they have to increase their air war now making smears and insinuations that are way over the top.
On the other hand, Morse's campaign is fielding a hundreds of volunteers daily, fully engaged in organized GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts. Of course for this special election there is no Mail In voting (except for a few absentee voters who worked through the obstacles and mendacity perpetuated by the sly County Clerk, Wayne Williams-Republican attempting to covertly suppress even that voter enfranchisement) it will be all about execution at the voting centers, there are no more neighborhood polling locations either a change after the last seven election cycles.
Anyway, I have already digressed. For the record I live in Colorado Springs, in fact we actually reside in the State Senate District, (SD-11) where one of the two Colorado recall elections is being held until Tuesday. By happen-chance, I am also a local Democratic Party Senate District Officer, (Vice Chairman) of (SD-11), a precinct committee-person and State Party Central Committee-person—generally a local political mucky-muck. Those political party posts are considered more ceremonial, except this election cycle, now and next year, when we are going to have a primary fight. You don't actively seek those party positions as they invite party campaign and volunteer chores and other party responsibilities, like knocking on doors, manning phone banks and going to political organizational meetings. For the record this Kos post is a comprehensive case study about this event dissenting first the unholy and unjustified recall initiative brought on by the NRA and allied forces meant to intimidate and bully other state legislatures and politicians, and two the bigger more covert effort by the Right-Wing, especially the atrophying Republican Party now relying on voter suppression tactics to stem the tide of a demographic voter “climate change” and this special election provides an insight to what is coming your way.
Now for the full 'Rest of the Story' below the curly cues.
Now some important background not covered by the NY Times article or other news outlets: State Senator John Morse,Colorado's State Senate's President, is up for a recall EVEN THOUGH;
A) He is term limited and will be out of office November 2014.
B) He is not accused of any political corruption, personal or public malfeasance or personal or public ethical misconduct.
C) Sen. John Morse (and Sen. Giron D-Pueblo, also facing a recall in a neighboring county), are “goodie two shoes” who grew up to be a “do-gooder's” and are being recalled for policy votes that was passed as part of a majority—nothing else. Morse is charged for not listening to “the people” even though there was hours of testimony during the legislative process.
D) The recall purchased 10,000 dubious petition signatures (where over 6,000 were stricken as either fraudulent, or not valid citizens of the district as a testiment to the “people's will” Of course they discount that the Morse campaign has identified 17,000 supporters who actually are voters in the district, they are not considered “the people” by the 'Recallers'. Get it. To them they are the “people” who only should be represented in this Cultural Cold War and those who oppose them, are the enemy for they cannot be “real Americans”, (again more on that later).
Morse and Giron are being recalled to make a political point, a form of Right-Wing bullying—period. I consider John Morse a friend, and have known him since 2007, two years after moving to this city. He is a former paramedic, policeman, small town police chief, accountant, then executive director of an elderly non-profit services organization before being elected State Senator. He is not a political ideologue, or overtly a partisan politician by any means, why he was chosen to be President of the Senate after being its Majority Leader. He is a Democrat because, one he is not a selfish person and believes in civic duty and responsibility and two, the Republican Party in Colorado is (both in its core and its rank and file), mostly made up of radicalized Right-Wingers—period. They are either “white Christian Evangelicals”, “white resentful” Libertarians and Tea Partiers', “white corporatist apologists and/or profiteers as in land developers and fossil fuel enthusiasts”, “white-male” authoritarians or “white-male retired military”. Nineteen percent of El Paso County households have a retired military veteran one of the highest in the nation. That along with five active duty major military bases and installations including; Northern Command, Space Command and NORAD meaning a high concentration of intelligence/security contractors and personnel. This on top of Fort Carson, Peterson AFB and the Air Force Academy.
Indeed this local special election has gathered a national focus because of the sensational framing of NRA versus of reasonable gun safety laws and by all expectations in a Right-Wing bastion as Colorado Springs, the NRA should be able to blow away Morse and Giron. But alas that is not happening, so now this is a real test of political power, plain and simple. Certainly the NRA, that old bully monolith of the Right-Wing, one of four legs of `90's (guns, god, gays and welfare) is trying to make an example out of Colorado demonstrating its former super-power, as wedge issue. Yes the gun issue was the ignition for grass roots emotions seeking to inflame some Democrats to vote against their interests and rise up the Republican base, but what about Same-Sex civil unions, what about the state embracing Obamacare, no recall efforts for those policy transgressions? The faux out cry that CO's gun safety laws are part of some radicalized agenda, yeah the closing the loophole to purchase guns through private sales (out of trunks of cars or on Craigslist, etc) without a background check where if you listen to them they want us to return back to when gun traders sold arms to hostile native's in wagons! As for limiting purchases of new ammunition clips to being less than 15 rounds now that is an attack on a person's First Amendment rights, is just rationally, ludicrous! Forget the hyperboles, federal laws require background checks and last year 5000 attempted purchases at gun shops were negated just in Colorado alone per background checks. To the gun industry that is lost business—get it. This is not rocket science folks.
But the real political play under the surface has been the systematic attack on voter's rights, specifically access to voting in general—especially for those whom the “white” Right-Wing coalition views as being “in no way, no how having any chance, ever voting their way”. If “they” can't persuade “them” or at least trick “them” to vote against their interests, why make it easy or even allow them to vote in the first place! Seriously they don't see changing demographics as being fair or American so why should they favor laws that are fair to all citizens. This should be important to you, regardless where you live. Because what is taking place here in Colorado is going to be exported as a political franchise nationwide. It's their only play.
One of the Right-wing's own local leaders, Jon Caldara, president of the [euphemistically named] Independence Institute, described by the NY Times, as a “libertarian research group in Colorado” (it isn't, it's a cover for the NRA) last month made the following public statement at a Right-Wing meeting and workshop regarding the Recall election: (link to you tube video here)
“[the] goal to incite 'a wave of fear' in state legislatures across the nation to stop gun safety legislation from passing anywhere else as it did in Colorado....This week in the aforementioned NY Times article Caldara was quoted to saying: (link here:)
The entire nation comes to Colorado Springs and Pueblo to decide the fate of this issue. And it will go one way, or it will go the other way, and here we are. We've got a month and a few days to do it. That means we can't screw up. We can't make the mistakes that our team usually makes. We can't go out there in camouflage in front of the MSNBC news truck, and talk about how we need our guns for armed revolution when these bastards keep taking away our rights!”[my emphasis]
“Are we going to be an urban-centric state where urbanites choose what happens, or will this be a state like Colorado has traditionally been, where we have the liberty and freedom for different communities to do different things?”Can I cut through his almost veiled bull$#!, and interpret what he really is saying: “
“We are going to abuse every codicil and legal nuance in every local election law if and when courageous 'do-gooders' pass gun safety laws, (ironic he uses the term safety), and threaten their elected position.So how has political bullying which has abused Colorado's electoral process seeking to recall duly elected state legislators with no ethical or legal transgressions gone from political anger and resentment over gun safety laws to revealing the Right Wing's voter suppression strategies? Here is the rest of the story, I warn you this is the next wave in America's Cultural Cold War. The reality is that no matter how much we on the liberal, progressive, moderate, rational and diverse “urban-centric” side know that “we have the numbers”, they know them too, and they know their diminishing numbers as well, the same way Grant and Lee knew theirs. But that means little if voters cannot be recorded as votes, and leads us to the rest of this story.
AND...we as resentful, old, white guys are not going to let the policies of the educated, gays, Blacks, Latinos, divorced or single women, and other young persons rule where traditionally we have ruled.” (For the record, I am white, over 55, and heterosexual, married for almost three decades but considered by one of my college roommate Right-Wing friends as a guilt-ridden liberal.)
“But remember don't actually show your radical colors wearing your faux camouflage fatiques and packing sidearms and shoulder assault rifles in public if and when the cameras come by. That is only for our own private audiences when we also take out our secret plans...”
First, let us go to the heart of the moral or political justification of the Right-Wing to seek a recall elections. Like the Wicked Witch of the West these things have to be done 'delicately', just ask my former Wisconsinite electors over their horrific governor, Walker the douche-bag, as many openly refer to him, in their failed efforts to recall him. Back in the late `90's when living in Wisconsin we indeed recalled a State Senator from Racine County who had made a solemn promise not to include the proposed publicly funded Miller Stadium into Racine's sales taxes, when a midnight deal he gave in and included Racine County, we recalled him for political malfeasance. Walker on the other hand has abused his power, but his abuse was not open malfeasance (at least to date) so even if most of the electorate might oppose his policies, he was not recalled.
A clue to this delicate political legitimacy is expressed in those periodic calls (or dreams) of impeaching President Obama. (For what?) The same quest they had when they tried to impeach President Clinton. The political reality is when an open partisan impeachment or recall efforts are consummated, it must be legitimate, meaning owing to corruption or ethical malfeasance that rises up to negate the electoral process which is essentially a sacred event. Otherwise it falls on its face. Local polling has indicated that the primary hot button among SD-11 voters is the cost of the special election and the fact that a recall is not warranted, this is a quiet wedge issue in reverse. And here is where voter suppression efforts is trying to deliver the goods under the guise of democracy in action, where they got rid of Mail In balloting, but in doing so overplayed their hand as well.
Let me take us back to March this year when the national and even statewide press was not looking too deeply beyond the reactions to the gun safety legislation. At first the Right Wing reaction targeted four State Senators, two in Denver's suburban districts and then tow down here in El Paso and Pueblo Counties. Democrats hold a 20-15 majority advantage in the State Senate so if three or four were recalled this would result in a genuine electoral flip, negating the elected majority of 2012. However if Morse and Giron lose next Tuesday, Democrats would still hold a one vote majority. The Right-Wing forces were unable to muster the necessary signatures in the Denver districts to demand a recall, essentially because they didn't have paid petition operatives unlike what happened here in El Paso and Pueblo County. This past April a local Colorado Springs political operative organization Kennedy Enterprises, link here and paid them a bonus of $1.00 per signature underwritten by the NRA (link here).
Earlier this summer John Morse told me personally that once they started paying for signatures he knew that a recall election was going to happen. When the media reported that the petition drive collected over 16,000 signatures, well over the requirement of 7150 there was big excitement. After a review and appeal process the count fell by 6,061, to just over 10,000, 38% of the signatures were stricken on a cursory review. Ironically the collectors failed to verify signer's with ID's, required by law—but then again, when it comes to technicalities like voter ID's that get in the way of the Right-Wing agenda, it is not a good time for technicalities in the way of their democracy efforts. A further investigation revealed that at least 50 petition signatures were identified as obviously fraudulent because they were deceased, while 200 others retracted their signatures saying they never signed the petition or, they were misinformed about its purpose. (link http://www.csindy.com/... ).
A subsequent complaint was filed about the fraudulent or forged signatures but our Republican States' Attorney and County Clerk have made no public announcements about investigating this kind of voter fraud! How obvious partisan. That said our illustrious and supposed fair-mind County Clerk, Wayne Williams who has announced his intention to run for Secretary of State, contributes to the local daily newspaper (Gazette) about all sorts of potential voter fraud with the new state laws: (link http://gazette.com/... )
"Because there's no opportunity to review [day of election] registrations and to catch potential fraudulent submissions ahead of time, there is a very real risk under same-day registration that individuals will be able to commit voter fraud," said Wayne Williams, the Republican clerk and recorder for El Paso County...
“...A homeless person can walk in and claim he intends to live under the Cimarron bridge,” Williams told the Gazette. “That’s now his residence and under that scenario we might not be able to prosecute, even if we suspect fraud.”
Soon after their master plan was revealed to do away with Mail In Voting for this special election when suddenly the Libertarian Party filed suit in Colorado District Court, timed conveniently so that if successful there would be no time to print and mail out ballots as required by law. More background, in 2012 over 67% of all votes cast in Colorado were made via Mail In voting, ( El Paso County it was 66%), an additional 10% was done through early voting, leaving just 22% who voted at election day polls. (link http://elections.gmu.edu/... )
This transition to Mail In voting in Colorado has grown greatly since 2006 when it was first implemented as a choice prompting the 2013 state legislature to require that all voters receive Mail In Ballots for all elections. Not so coincidentally, as Mail In voting has increased, so did the election of Democratic officials, where now Colorado is considered a blue state: When the Democratic State Legislature passed HB 1303, which included voter registration reform for same day voter registration and comprehensive use of Mail In balloting, online and motor vehicle/drivers license voter registration elimination of non-active voter registration status, and redefining residence requirements, all aimed at making voter participation easier and less partisan, the Republican and Right-Wing revolted calling it a partisan power grab.
Remember the changing voter demographics that ruled the 2012 presidential election. Each year the Right-Wing is falling further behind with every day and now in Colorado the Democrats are making it even easier for those who were previously suppressed or disenfranchised, especially those urbanite-centric diverse voters, to cast a ballot! THIS CANNOT BE! Look at what Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan where recent Republican controlled states are doing, they are trying to go in the opposite direction. This is the Cultural Cold War and that is the big battle, voting. So is the Morse recall about gun safety laws or greater democracy participation and ultimately political power?
Now as the summer campaign waged John Morse got support from his colleagues; Congressman Perlmutter and DeGette, many State Legislators in both CO's House and Senate and naturally who all came down and canvassed our voters. I had moments to converse with many of them personally. Each time I did I was able to get their insight as to what this recall really all about, they too recognized it was not so much about guns, but about political power, which is why we have decided to stand and fight.
Back to the Libertarian lawsuit so well-timed where county clerks could not print and mail out Mail In Ballots, and yet still the Libertarian Party candidate was unable to get on the ballot. Under those covers comes a Aspen Colorado Right-Wing millionaire, Marilyn Marks (link here ) who was the funding party for the Libertarian lawsuit. She is on record loathing Mail In ballots stating among one thing they are not private and subject to open record laws. In this particular legal case I happened to be the named party representing El Paso voters and the Mail In Ballot. The State District Court judge ruled that the minor parties had fifteen days and this negated the Mail In Ballot provision. We appealed to the State Supreme Court and in a 4-4 partisan decision where the lone Unaffiliated Justice Gregory Hobbs (link here) failed to show up for work and rule on the merits of even hearing the case. What a judicial coward.
That is how Mail In Ballots were negated in this election, watch out for the future. Now that set-up a disorganized, scramble to get polling places and people educated to where and when to go. Currently Colorado also has gone away from neighborhood precinct voting. You know the voting locations at neighborhood schools, churches or community centers where now they are at large central locations where early voting is conducted. In El Paso County it was announced that there would be four early voting centers opened starting today, (Thursday), operating Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, and then three more opening on Monday through Tuesday. Of the four facilities, only one actually lies within Senate District 11 boundaries, (yes one also sits just outside its southeastern border), but the two others, are well outside of the district located in the city's far north and far western portions. Of the four, only two are served by public transportation as well. And except on Tuesday the hours of operation are between 8-5, when most persons are at work. Monday and Tuesday the clerk is are opening three more locations, all in SD-11. Now, that is the best our Republican County Clerk could do.
By contrast in neighboring Pueblo County, their Democratic County Clerk is able to do better. He already opened a voting center last week and will be open on two Sunday's, as well as, extending hours to 6 PM. Over the weekend he will have open nine voting centers open. Also, under that surface, El Paso's clerk tried to impose draconian restrictions regarding those seeking absentee ballots, stating that a person had to sign an affidavit declaring that they were going to be out of town or physically incapable to travel to vote at the polls. This arbitrary provision was struck down lastThursday evening by another CO District judge where he ruled that simply showing up and signing an application allowed anyone to request an absentee ballot without offering a reason. But still, the County Clerk's official website did not have that update, to the chagrin of Williams whom I personally confronted Tuesday as the news outlets were still reporting the stricken provisions. Little publicity surrounded that decision even though I took my family down to the Elections Department to vote absentee.
There is overt voter suppression, as in legislating out potential voters exampled like requiring residence standards in time or place, meaning a voter must establish a permanent residence of at least 30 days, or reside in a recognized household that coincides with government ID's address, not a daily or transient rental location as in hotel or bridge overpass or college dormitory, (see link here ) Examples of El Paso County Clerks suppressing votes are well documented.
[County Clerk Balink in 2008] Send a letter to Colorado College — but not the Air Force Academy — with false information regarding voter registration. If you’re caught, claim you misinterpreted the law and pray no one actually looks at the law. Specifically, Morse is referencing a major dust-up of a few weeks ago when Colorado College, a liberal arts college in Colorado Springs, produced a letter from Balink’s [County Clerk] office claiming that students there could not vote in El Paso County if their parents in other states claimed them as dependents in those states. That was incorrect, of course, and Balink subsequently claimed it was a big mix-up, and that his office had misinterpreted state law.Then there is covert suppression efforts. This involves items like demanding state issued picture ID's when other forms are also acceptable, or making the time and place to vote exceedingly difficult, like hours or out of the way locations or by reducing the number of voting locations so people can’t vote early and conveniently. Others are challenging each new voter registration, processing registrations as slowly as possible so people get their mail ballots too slowly and don’t have time to vote, claim at every opportunity that you are saving the taxpayers money by limiting voting, or worse have data errors in the registration that purge voters off the roles.
John Morse was always politically vulnerable as not only does District 11 sit in Republican dominated El Paso County, considered to be one of the most Right-Wing voting areas in the country, (last measured to be 19th, but historically in the top ten), though his district's boundaries basically encompass the majority of Democratic voting precincts in the county. Registered voters in this district are almost perfectly split three ways, Unaffiliated, (36%) Democratic, (33%)and Republican, (30%). Because I get into the minutia of voters data, generally speaking, registered Dem's and Rep's vote in much higher percentages, than Unaffiliated's, where in Colorado Springs Republicans at even at slightly higher percentage than Dem's, so in reality the D's and R's are essentially dead even in D-11. Like statewide elections a victor needs to win the Unaffiliated vote to prevail. The last election for SD-11 (2010) Morse won with less than 50%, (48.29% to 47.11%) against the Republican challenger, (Owen) who later moved to another district and won there in 2012. The Libertarians became the spoiler garnishing as significant minority 4.6%.
In that year, (2010), I was tracking the daily mail in and early vote counts on my own against party affiliation registrants for a number of local elections and about Wednesday night before the Tuesday election day I called John and told him that at least my analysis that he was in trouble and that was also affecting the State House candidates in that Democrats and Unaffiliated voters seemed to be lagging in their voter participation (turnout). John ran his own numbers, confirming the turnout lagging from 2008 and 2006 elections data, (later he thanked me for the heads up),where he got added support from the State Party as they turned a their large phone banks providing GOTV assistance. Whether that made the difference is scientifically unknown, but suddenly registered Democrats and Unaffiliated voter turnouts spiked over the final weekend, followed up on a rush on the final day putting Morse over the top. Back in 2010 the voter universe for SD-11 was about 56,000 voters, split 36%-U's, 33.6%-D's 31%-R's quite similar to today even after reapportionment. Estimates now hold that turnout might mirror 2010, provided votes can be processed and cast. In 2010 18,000 votes were cast via Mail In. It is estimated that the present system can only handle 18,000 votes at the polls even with all the days of voting at centers.
Okay today voting center voting begins and the campaign is in total GOTV mode. At 6 PM the Denver Post and KRDO stated that 3500 citizens voted on the first day which coincides with our estimate that 4000 the first day tops. I think tomorrow it will be no more than 2000, 4000 on Saturday, and 7,000-8,000 the final two days or 18,000 votes. (Link here ) Up to date it is estimated that both sides have spent $2M, the Right-Wing spending an estimated $250,000 to get the recall and then subsequently the broadcast and online advertising. They are coming up short in the ground game—hugely. Here is their website looking for volunteers, (Link here )
It is my opinion that the Right-Wing has “overplayed their hand”. It starts with this statement in today's Post article from a Republican in the Denver Post article:
"Hickman opposed the recall of Morse, as does Carr, a Colorado Springs Republican.Both counties estimate the cost for this special election will exceed $200,000 apiece where just a few years ago Colorado Springs turned off street lights and stopped watering parks and parkways to save roughly the same amount of money in budgets strapped by the Great Recession. But when I confronted Wayne Williams' Election Department inquiring what was their prediction of how many voters they could handle per day at the voting centers, they didn't have a good answer. It is estimated that even if a voter is properly registered and possessed their ID's even with an express ballot mailer it will take at least a minute per voter to get through. This seems to be confirmed at voting centers today. Therefore at best it appears that 20,000 will be able to vote, not the 28,000 who voted in the off-presidential election year in 2010 and certainly not the 60,000 registered voters in the district.
"I think this is the wrong way to settle differences," the 79-year-old Carr said.”
...Vernon Roser, 67, an unaffiliated voter who was standing next to him, said there was no reason to recall Morse. "He voted for his principles," Roser said. "He voted to save the kids."
...The sentiment was shared by Ruth Lacey and her mother, Dorothy Hiatt, who voted at the Garden of the Gods location.
Larry Giddings, 58, an unaffiliated voter from Colorado Springs, said he opposes the recall elections.
"The two senators up for recalls were doing their jobs," he said. "People may disagree with them, but ... recalls should be for heinous misconduct."
Finally here is my final projection
I think the Morse campaign is going to crush the Right Wing forces seeking to recall him—politically crush them. This is based on my own door knocks, phone calls, discussions with voters, conversations with volunteers, and the data I have been told, plus years of campaign experience. The Morse Campaign has amassed over 1000 volunteers and have a well-functioning organization plus experienced staffers on the ground. But the bottom line is that the recall effort never jumped to a legitimate threshold justifying the throwing out an ethical public official regardless of the politics. They couldn't smear Morse or Giron enough to get over this threshold. Then as the cost of the recall election escalated with the loss of Mail In balloting it pushed what was going to be a close election to a new momentum. The influx of state and national volunteers nd the threat that the loss of Mail In voting as a disguised voter suppression effort moved apathetic voters into motivated force, even if they have to the polls!
And that is where things were at the end of last week. Suddenly, El Paso County volunteers started flooding the campaign office and now a rout is on. Naturally, I could be drinking Kool Aid, but it was El Paso County's Sheriff Maketa probably the biggest political figure on the other side who confirmed it yesterday. They held a rally where an estimated hundred people showed up that included five other sheriffs getting fired up on the day before voting Link here: )
"This recall is about the right to petition and challenge government when we feel it has gotten out of hand", said Maketa.That is the biggest tell coming from their side as they also know they are losing in their internals and going into GOTV efforts Maketa (an honest though Right Wing local politician) was starting to let them down gently, while offering more parting bullying threats.
Maketa said: “that win or lose, the recall effort will send a message to candidates in 2014 and beyond—that more recalls will happen if politicians don't hold themselves accountable for what they do.