Latest Polis Recall Effort Misses Signature Deadline

Jared Polis in a face mask.
David Zalubowski/AP
Colorado Governor Jared Polis adjusts his face covering bearing the state’s new message to encourage residents to protect against COVID-19 during a news conference about the steady increase in cases of the new coronavirus in the state Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Denver.

By 5pm Friday, the second effort to recall Democratic Gov. Jared Polis was supposed to enter a new phase: organizers had to either turn in enough signatures to force a special election, or accept they hadn’t made the deadline. 

Shortly after close of business, the Secretary of State’s website says the group has “failed to submit petition by deadline.” Recall organizers did not immediately respond to calls and emails. 

They had two months to collect 631,266 valid signatures to proceed with the recall election. Their petition arguments focused on Polis’ use of extraordinary powers during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Among other claims, it asserts he abused his authority by “exceeding the scope of his powers” to “legitimize confining residents to their homes, forbidding travel, closing businesses and mandating wearing of masks thereby depriving citizens of liberty and property without due process of law.” 

Polis issued a mandatory stay-at-home order from March 26- April 11. 

The language for the recall also accuses Polis of infringing on the state’s legislative branch by failing to seek their input when he determined how Colorado should distribute $1.67 billion in federal CARES Act money.

Polis’ decision on how to allocate the money took many people by surprise, and left some local officials feeling a mix of frustration, shock, and acceptance. Originally state lawmakers and the Joint Budget Committee believed they would take the lead in distributing the funds. Further attempts at a federal relief package are currently stalled in Congress.

The group behind the petition drive nicknamed itself “Dethrone Polis” and organized county directors to distribute petitions to sympathetic businesses and canvassed for signatures at events protesting COVID restrictions.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Polis said he is focused on delivering real results for Coloradans across the state. “Now during this unprecedented pandemic, Colorado has been a model for the country thanks to the bold and swift actions we’ve taken including being one of the first states to reopen. Like the majority of Coloradans, the Governor believes that playing politics during this challenging time for our state and country is simply inappropriate and shameful.”

A previous failed effort to recall Polis drew from different, pre-pandemic motivations. Those organizers cited his support for Colorado’s Red Flag gun law, new regulations for the oil and gas industry, and his signing of a bill to join the National Popular Vote Compact. That law just survived a separate repeal effort.

The two recall efforts have different organizers. The current recall campaign reports raising $2,625 in cash, plus $11,183.25 in non-monetary in-kind contributions.

Gov. says state unlikely to return to most significant restrictions to control pandemic 

During a press briefing on Friday, Polis said he was not inclined to issue another state-at-home-order and referred to it as a “blunt” tool that he thinks is no longer necessary, even though cases of the disease are soaring. He cited improved clinical treatments, more access to personal protective equipment, and better knowledge of how COVID spreads. He urged personal responsibility and said people should know by now how to minimize their own risks.

“I have confidence that the people of Colorado will make this a safe Thanksgiving, perhaps unlike any other,” he said. “That love for your parents, for your grandparents, for your aunts and uncles, is a more powerful force than anything that a state or governor or [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] or a local health authority could possibly say or do.”

Polis said Colorado has reached both record numbers of daily tests and daily positivity rates. “We’ve lost over 2,100 to the virus so far and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.” 

Some public health officials and others want Polis to do more. Democratic Rep. Bri Buentello of Pueblo posted on Twitter that she doesn’t think people will listen to Polis’ latest request urging voluntary measures to slow the spread.

“He’s been saying this for months. It’s like when Dad threatens to pull the car over too many times, eventually the kids stop paying attention at all and go back to play spitball + screaming in the backseat. Libertarianism is not the answer to a public health crisis,” wrote the Democrat, who lost her reelection bid earlier this month.