What really drove Colorado recall vote — hint: it wasn’t ‘voter suppression’

Published 9/12/13

By Kurt Bardella


Colorado’s first ever successful recall wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about partisan politics. It wasn’t even about guns.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s historic recall election, a lot of people are re-writing history.

Some say it was bought and paid for by the gun-lobby, but if elections can be so easily bought and paid for why didn’t the recall fail? As the Washington Post noted, the anti-recall effort bolstered by billionaire Eli Broad and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg outspent the pro-recall effort by a 5-to-1 margin.

Others are saying it was partisan politics at its worst. But that doesn’t explain why more Democrats and Independents signed the recall petition than Republicans. That doesn’t explain why in State Senator Angela Giron’s district, where Democrats enjoy a 47-23% registration advantage over Republicans, the recall passed by double-digits.

You see, for the people of Colorado, the recall was about something much more fundamental and personal – their right to be heard.

The American people will tolerate many things but as history has shown, the one thing that can serve as a catalyst for revolution is action without representation. We have a fervent belief in our right to be heard. The entire idea of our democracy is predicated on the notion that our representatives have an obligation to at least listen to their constituents before taking action on their behalf.

That absence of an ability to gain an audience with their representatives is why Coloradans from across the ideological spectrum recalled State Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron.

That’s why it’s somewhat laughable that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has characterized the recall as “voter suppression, pure and simple” because it is in fact “suppression” that ignited the recall in the first place.

For Morse and Giron, their fates were sealed on March 4th when they chose to divert from standard practice and ignored the hundreds of Colorado citizens who traveled to the State Capitol on the day that Senate committees were deliberating new gun-control measures. They were turned away and not heard.

Among those citizens were 30 Sheriffs, who came to testify, but only one was allowed to speak.

No matter what you think about additional gun-control legislation, is it so unreasonable to listen to testimony from the very law enforcement personnel who will be charged with enforcing them?

For all the talk about safety and common-sense, shouldn’t we invite the perspective of the very people who spend every single day dedicated to keeping our homes, schools and communities safe?

And that’s the problem, Sens. Morse and Giron didn’t want to hear from anyone. They didn’t want to let the process unfold and so they limited debate and restricted the ability of the people of Colorado from being heard.

Had that March 4th day not unfolded this way, there would have been no recall.

Instead, new laws that the majority of Coloradans opposed were imposed on them and the citizens weren’t even allowed to speak-out.

When elected representatives so willfully choose to ignore the voice of the people, no matter what the policy is or where they fall on the ideological spectrum, the people will unite and demand to be heard.

The recall process afforded these people a constructive, definitive and democratic mechanism to be heard.

The real takeaway from the recall as far as Coloradans are concerned isn’t about supporting or opposing new gun-control measures, it’s ensuring that never again will significant policy be imposed on the people unless the people have been given an audience with their representatives first.