COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Governor John Hickenlooper issued a statement Monday confronting reports of voters trying to shake things up in the state's historic recall elections, and not in a good way.
The statement issued early Monday morning said, "We are hearing disturbing reports that some people are being encouraged to go to the polls, not to legitimately vote, but to disrupt the process. That would be unlawful and makes a mockery of the democratic process."
"We urge the county clerks in Pueblo and El Paso counties to make clear that people engaged in attempting to disrupt the elections are open to criminal prosecution. We've also reached out to the Attorney General to help us ensure fair elections take place this week."
The statement comes on the heels of a busy weekend at the polls. Voters casted their ballots at four polling places open Saturday around Senate District 11 in the recall election of State Sen. John Morse. Voters in Senate District 3 cast their ballot in the recall election of State Sen. Angela Giron.
Spokesperson Eric Brown with Governor Hickenlooper's office said the statement was referring to several incidents in the recall election of State Sen. Giron in Pueblo.
Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz said he was concerned by three incidents with voters this weekend. The voters picked up ballots, punched in the number on their signature card into the electronic machines, but didn't cast their electronic ballot.
Ortiz said it could be a ploy to make the machines inaccurate. Ortiz wasn't sure if the voters made a mistake, or if it was intentional. The clerk said he made changes to the election process to make sure this does not happen again.
The Governor's Office said the statement was not issued to address concerns over voting requirements under House Bill 1303 brought to light during an incident Saturday.
House Bill 1303, or The Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, passed in April 2013. Its goal is to get more people to vote. Some people worry its allowing people to vote illegally.
Before the bill, voters had to live in Colorado and live in the precinct where they intended to register to vote for 30 days before the election. Under the new bill, the voter must have lived in Colorado for 22 days. It eliminated the time a voter has to reside in their precinct leading up to an election.
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams said it makes it easy for someone outside the district to vote in the recall race of Senator Morse.
Jon Caldara doesn't live in Senate District 11, but he was given a ballot. He is president of the Independence Institute. It's a think-tank based in Denver.
He rented a room in someone's home in El Paso County to vote in the election. He wanted to show how easy it is to vote under House Bill 1303.
"It is my belief that this extremely sloppy new election law was designed to legally move voters into districts where their vote is most useful. I will show how this dangerous new law works by easily and legally voting in the John Morse recall election," said Caldara in his blog on 850 KOA Radio's website.
Sen. Giron was one of the bill's sponsors. Ortiz stood by House Bill 1303 Monday. He said the bill makes sure all voters have access to voting. It hasn't led to any problems in Senate District 3.
Williams said it's hard to tell at this point in the election process if people are voting illegally in Senate District 11. He said he didn't know the extent of the problem, however there had not been a lot of changes of registration so far.
Williams disagrees with the bill's provisions. He tried to block the bill before it was signed into law.
"This law took away our ability to find issues ahead of time," said Williams. "If they say this is where I live, here is my oath that this is the case, this is where I intend to reside, we have to give them a regular ballot."
"If they are willing to risk going to jail, there is nothing that stops them from voting. We can't give them a provisional ballot, we have to give them a regular ballot," said Williams.
Williams said the El Paso County Clerk's Office will investigate every occasion where someone has changed an address during the recall election. The office will make sure the person continues to receive mail at the address they registered with during the election. If they don't continue getting mail sent to that address, Williams said he will work with the district attorney's office to prosecute the voters.