In September and October of 2020, a group of Westminster residents circulated petitions seeking sufficient signatures to trigger a recall election for the Mayor and three other City Council members and filed those petitions with the City Clerk's Office on October 30, 2020. As required by law, the City Clerk evaluated the validity of the signatures on the petitions and the petitions themselves for compliance with the law.
The City Clerk disqualified several petition sections because they included a cover page that had not been part of the petition form approved by the City Clerk pursuant to C.R.S. Section 31-4-502(1)(c) and because these petition sections did not include specific warning language or a specific pre-submitted and approved statement of the grounds for the recall at the top of the first page of the section, as required by W.M.C. Section 7-1-10.
The disqualification of these petition sections and other signatures disqualified for unrelated deficiencies resulted in a determination that there were insufficient valid signatures to trigger a recall election. The City Clerk issued the final Certification of Insufficiency on Monday, December 7, 2020, and an amended certification on December 10, 2020.
The proponents of the recall filed suit in the Adams County District Court on January 4, 2021, seeking to require the City Clerk to consider those signatures in the above-described disqualified petition sections. On Friday, April 16, 2021, at 10:43 PM, the Court issued an Order directing the City Clerk to take possession of the petition sections by April 21, 2021, and evaluate the signatures in those previously disqualified petition sections. After taking possession of the documents on April 21, 2021, and conducting this evaluation, the City Clerk filed a Certificate of Sufficiency on April 28, 2021, which determined that sufficient valid signatures were gathered to trigger a recall election for Mayor Herb Atchison and Councillor Jon Voelz pursuant to the requirements of Westminster City Charter Section 3.18 and W.M.C. Section 7-1-10.
Charter Section 3.18, and W.M.C. Section 7-1-10 both require that, upon the filing of a Certificate of Sufficiency for a recall, "the council, if the officer sought to be removed does not resign within five days thereafter, shall order an election by resolution, which shall contain the time periods for candidates to file their nomination petitions to succeed the person sought to be recalled. Such election shall be held on a Tuesday fixed by the council not less than 45 nor more than 60 days from the date that the City Clerk's certificate was filed."
On Monday, May 3, 2021, within five days of the filing of the Certificate of Sufficiency, Mayor Herb Atchison submitted his written resignation to the City Council. With the timely resignation of Mayor Herb Atchison, a recall election is needed only for Councillor Jon Voelz.
The City Attorney has consulted with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, and both the City Attorney and Secretary of State agree that the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, enacted in Colorado as the Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act, Article 8.3 of Title 1 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.), enacted into law by the Colorado General Assembly in 2016 after Charter Section 3.18 and W.M.C. Section 7-1-10 were last modified, applies to this election. The Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act, including specifically but not limited to C.R.S. Section 1-8.3-110, requires that ballots be transmitted to military and overseas voters no later than forty-five days before the election in order to safeguard the voting rights of military and overseas voters.
The City Council is required by the Charter Section 3.18, W.M.C. Section 7-1-10, as well as practical necessity to set reasonable time periods for candidates to file nomination petitions in order to appear on the ballot as candidates to succeed the person sought to be recalled. A 10-day period for the nomination of candidates to succeed the person sought to be recalled is a reasonable time that would allow for a rapid election to take place, and also would provide fairness and opportunity for candidates. This would establish May 20, 2021, as the deadline for candidates to file their nomination petitions to succeed the person sought to be recalled.
A certain amount of time is also needed to program, print and mail the large number of ballots after the candidates to succeed the person sought to be recalled is set. A 14-day period for the programming, printing and mailing of ballots after candidates are set, which would allow for a rapid election to take place and also provide sufficient time for the programming, printing and mailing of ballots and include a buffer to ensure compliance with the Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act.
Even though Charter Section 3.18, and W.M.C. Section 7-1-10 specify that the recall election should occur within 60 days of the filing of the Certificate of Sufficiency, the City must comply with the Uniformed Military and Overseas Voters Act, and also must safeguard the voting rights of Westminster citizens serving in the armed forces or otherwise overseas. In order to do this and to provide fairness and opportunity to potential successor candidates, and in order to actually program, print and mail the ballots for the election, the City Council should set the election on Tuesday, July 20, which is 83 days after the filing of the Certificate of Sufficiency.
A contract or contracts will come to City Council at a future meeting that will be for the programming, printing, mailing and other potential coordinating needs once those components have been refined. A resolution will also be needed to move funds from General Fund contingency to the City Clerk's Office Budget for these expenses.