State Rep. Rochelle Galindo is facing a recall attempt to remove her from office just five month after the Greeley Democrat won her first term.
Her opponents started gathering petition signatures on April 6, kicking off what’s already shaping up to be a hard-fought and expensive campaign that could last through the summer and into the fall.
As charges fly left and right, we thought it would be a good idea to examine the recall process and describe how things might unfold in the attempt to put the question to voters in what could be the first of numerous recall campaigns this year.
Colorado is one of 19 states that allow voters to recall any elected official — except members of Congress and U.S. senators, who aren’t subject to recall. Voters can remove Colorado officials for any reason, unlike some states that only allow recalls under certain grounds, including malfeasance, incompetence, felony conviction or drunkenness.
For state-level and county offices, supporters of a recall in Colorado have 60 days to gather petition signatures from district residents equal to 25 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for the office being recalled. If they meet that threshold — and survive legal challenges — an election is scheduled to decide whether to recall the official and, if that succeeds, pick a replacement. (It takes more signatures to recall school district directors and nonpartisan elected officials — usually, 40 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for the office.)
In Galindo’s case, her detractors have until June 3 to gather 5,696 signatures from registered voters in Weld County’s House District 50, which covers portions of Greeley, Evans and Garden City.
Galindo, the first openly gay Latina to serve on the Greeley City Council, won the House seat in November by a 6.7-point margin over Republican Michael Thuener in the Democratic-leaning district, which hasn’t elected a Republican since 2002.
Once recall petitions have been deemed sufficient, potential replacement candidates can start gathering signatures to petition their way onto the same ballot under the same rules they’d use to get on the ballot in a regular election. For state House seats, that means getting 1,000 signatures from fellow Republicans or Democrats.
Those who qualify will appear on the same ballot as the recall question, but votes for successor candidates will only be counted if the recall is successful. (Write-in candidates can also file paperwork to have their votes tallied.)
If it goes to an election, the statement that appeared on the petitions — outlining grounds for the recall; it’s limited to 200 words and can’t include any “profane or false statements” — will be printed on the ballot. So will a statement submitted by the official facing the recall, though it can be as long as 300 words. It can't contain profanity or anything false, either.
If recall proponents turn in enough valid signatures by the deadline, the Galindo recall election could be scheduled for as early as the end of August or as late as mid-October, depending on how long it takes to complete several required steps.
Here’s what happens once the petitions are submitted, as outlined by the state constitution, applicable statutes and state election officials:
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office has 15 business days to examine the petitions and determine whether they contain enough valid signatures.
If it turns out there aren’t enough valid signatures, recall organizers get another 15 days to “cure” their submission, by gathering additional signatures and correcting technical problems, if any.
Once a petition has been deemed sufficient, opponents have 15 days to file protests. Typically, these must be resolved within another 30 days, though there’s no set time-limit if disputes wind up in court.
Before the expiration of the protest window, anyone who signed the recall petition can request that his or her name be removed, and it won’t count. (This happens rarely, but recall opponents say they plan to review the petitions and urge anyone who might have mistakenly signed to speak up, possibly shaving a few signatures off the total.)
At any point up to five days after recall petition have been certified, the target of a recall can resign, halting the recall and allowing the office to be filled the same way it would be if it became vacant for another reason. For a legislator, that means a party vacancy committee would convene to elect a replacement, who would complete the original official’s term.
If the recall petition makes it that far but the targeted official doesn’t resign, the “designated election official” — that’s the governor, in the case of a legislative recall — is required to set “without delay” the election date, at least 30 days and no more than 60 days in the future.
That’s where Colorado’s all-mail elections comes into play.
Because of the wording of the requirement, officials say that means setting the date ballots will first become available — understood to mean the day ballots are mailed to voters — rather than the day they’re due back. Since Colorado mail ballots go in the mail 22 days before they’re counted, that puts Election Day between 52 and 82 days out.
Officials say the governor will have to pick a date closer to the end of the range in order to allow time for replacement candidates to complete their petitions, and for the clerk to have mail ballots printed.
There’s another wrinkle that could push the election back further.
If a regularly scheduled general election falls within 90 days of the petition being deemed sufficient and after the protest period has passed, the recall will take place as part of that election. (Unlike the 30-60 day span described above, the 90-day range covers the period until Election Day, not until ballots would go in the mail.)
This year, that means that if Galindo’s recall petition is deemed sufficient before Aug. 7 — 90 days prior to the off-year Election Day, which falls on Nov. 5 — the governor would have to set a special election.
According to Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes, it could cost taxpayers around $70,000 to conduct a special election, though she stressed that figure is a “rough estimate,” and the precise costs won’t be known until after the election.