Avon begins planning for recall election later this year
After withdrawing its appeal, the town will likely host the recall election this November in coordination with the county election
In the weeks since the town of Avon voted to withdraw its appeal of the order handed down by District Judge Russell H Granger, the town has been getting things in order to now host a recall election for Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Town Council Member Tamra Underwood later this year.
After Town Council voted on July 13 to go back on its earlier decision to fight the judge’s order, Town Attorney Paul Wisor withdrew the town’s appeal as well as its motion to stay, both of which had been filed just weeks earlier on June 28.
Since then, the town also issued the certificates of sufficiency. The certificates of sufficiency officially stipulate that the committee behind the recall effort received enough valid signatures to trigger an election, which was the question the lawsuit was centered around in the first place.
According to Wisor, as the town now follows the judge’s order as well as the state recall statute, the certificates of sufficiency will be delivered to the Town Council at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 10. At that time, the Town Council will set an election date for the recall that falls within 30 and 90 days of the meeting.
“It is entirely within Council’s discretion to set the date, but it is anticipated Town Council will choose to hold the election on November 2 in coordination with the election to be conducted by the County,” Wisor wrote in an email.
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While the council can select any date for the election that falls within the 30 to 90-day limits, Wisor said that the likelihood of hosting it in coordination with the county election will reduce the overall cost to the town.
The town will still have to pay for a portion of the coordinated election, but the cost will be less than if the town hosted the recall election on its own. Wisor previously estimated that a recall election would cost the town $15,000, with additional costs related to campaigning should Underwood and Hymes prevail in the election.
Not only will the coordinated election save money on costs, but Wisor noted it will also save the town “countless hours of staff time.”
The end, or just the beginning?
The recall issue has pervaded the town for nearly 10 months, since the Avon Recall Committee first submitted its signatures in October 2020. At the July 13 meeting, several comments were made that hosting the election will not be the end of recalls — or even the end of the signature debate — in Avon.
“Instigators of the recall have promised that this is the first of many recall attempts. Whether they fulfill that promise or not, allowing a signature threshold to stand that throws out or discounts the voices of voters in Avon and elsewhere around the state undermines in the premise of our democracy,” Hymes said in her personal statement advocating against her recusal from the appeal discussion at the July 13 meeting. Council ultimately voted to recuse Hymes and Underwood from voting and participating in the discussion.
At the meeting, several members of the public as well as several members of council claimed that there has been an increase in recall attempts across the state in recent years.
“This is a gigantic issue with far-reaching effects for our state,” said Rich Carroll, Avon resident and the town’s former mayor, at the July 13 Town Council meeting. “The recall process is a strategy we see countrywide to try to get into office those people who cannot get elected on their own. This will not be the last recall in the town of Avon.”
Between 2019 and 2021, according to Ballotpedia, there have been 32 recall attempts across the state of Colorado. This is compared with 31 recall attempts between 2016 and 2018, 22 between 2013 and 2015 and 29 between 2010 and 2012.
Of the attempts made between 2019 and 2021, Avon will be one of nine that have been sent to a recall election. Of those nine, only two recall elections resulted in the officials in question remaining in office. Like Avon, some of the recall elections contained more than one candidate being recalled.
The other attempts ended or were terminated primarily due to recall supporters not obtaining a sufficient number of verified signatures in the given 60 days or abandoning the effort entirely. There were some efforts that ended with the official in question resigning from their position.
According to Tom Ruemmler, a supporter of the Avon Recall Committee, this is because obtaining enough recall signatures is extremely time-consuming, especially when compared with the short amount of time it takes for voters to complete a mail-in ballot. Ruemmler estimates that volunteers took an estimated 24,000 minutes during the 60-day period to obtain the signatures required.
Ruemmler said that the town’s efforts to delay the recall election displays “outrageous, despicable ethics by the attorney and certain members of the council.”
For Council member Chico Thuon, who was ultimately the deciding vote behind withdrawing the town’s appeal, changing his vote and going ahead with the recall election was a way to stop the “chaos.”
“I know that two of them, if it does go to a recall, are more than likely going to sue the town on constitutional matters and it will become more drama for the newspapers, but so be it, the recall will be done and over,” Thuon added.
According to Hymes, this is “the last thing in the world that we [referring to herself and Tamra], who are dedicated to the well-being of the town and its residents, would want to do is sue the town.”
Hymes noted that back in November 2020, Hymes and Underwood did file a provisional protest regarding how the signatures were collected by the recall committee. However, it was stalled when the town filed with the district court.
Once the district court made its decision in June and sided with the recall committee, Hymes said they still had the right to protest both the violations of the recall statute that she claims the recall committee made and the constitutional arguments of the town. Had the protest been filed and then failed, the mayor and council members could have appealed that decision. However, Hymes and Underwood ultimately waived this right to file a protest and are now just preparing for the election to go forward.
“We are really just protecting voting rights in Avon and the rest of Colorado,” Hymes said, adding that the language used by Chuon is “frustrating” and “unfair.”
At the July 13 meeting, Wisor did note that in voting to withdraw the appeal, that will require the town to uphold the judge’s decision in future recall attempts. He said the town will be ”subject to a court order” that he called “fundamentally at odds” with the basic tenants of democracy.