Colorado recall laws liberal but challenging

Thursday, March 29, 2018 11:58 AM
The deadline to submit petitions to recall La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt is 4 p.m. Friday. Recall supporters need 7,505 valid signatures to force a recall election.

Colorado laws on recall elections date back to the early 20th century and are designed to ensure voters have the power to determine the validity of any reasons cited for the ouster of an elected official.

A deadline of sorts comes at 4 p.m. Friday for those seeking to recall La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.


In an interview Wednesday with The Durango Herald, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said recall elections were "designed to be possible but challenging."

According to, an online nonpartisan encyclopedia that tracks American elections, recall elections in Colorado aren't uncommon. The website lists 12 recall efforts in 2017, 15 in 2016 and five in 2015.

Recall supporters must turn in signatures on petitions seeking Lachelt's recall, but if they lack the 7,505 valid signatures needed to force the recall, they will have an additional 15 days to collect the needed number.

In addition, recall supporters can go back to voters if some signatures are deemed invalid to correct mistakes.


La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker will have 15 business days from Friday to determine if 7,505 valid signatures were collected. If she determines insufficient valid signatures were collected, it would trigger the 15-day period for recall supporters to go out and try to meet the required number of valid signatures.

County residents David Peters, Ty Hawkins and Michael Cugnini initiated the petition drive to recall Lachelt, claiming her environmental lobbying work with Western Leaders Network, a nonprofit she started, impaired her objectivity on oil and gas issues and harmed her attendance at meetings.

Peters did not return telephone calls Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment on the progress of the recall effort.


Lachelt has initiated her own campaign, Decline to Sign, to persuade voters to reject offers to sign recall petitions.

Parker said if the recall effort does successfully force a recall vote, which would likely be scheduled for July or August, it would cost the county about $58,000.

As a political act, a recall "can be used for a variety of reasons," Williams said, and ultimately, it is up to the voters to judge whether the effort is worthy.

Colorado is one of 19 states where voters can recall elected officials, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, and no evidence of fraud or official misconduct is necessary to trigger a special recall election.