15 January 2007

Denver Special Election

My wife and I, and every other registered voter in Denver, should have recently received a mail in paper ballot for Denver's special election. If you haven't you should in the next couple of days. Thankfully, it is short. The only question posed on the ballot I received is whether Denver's Election Commission should be replaced by an Elected Clerk and Recorder. The returned ballot must be received by Denver officials by the end of January.

I urge you to vote no. Why?

1. The problem in Denver's most recent election were caused because the people in the positions did a bad job, not because having two elected and one appointed person, is worse than having one elected person. The Blue Ribbon panels that have looked into the matter have specifically found that the election commission structure wasn't the problem, and the proposal on the ballot ignores that advice. We have election commission elections to replace bad people, that doesn't require a change in the city charter.

2. Why should an election that went bad encourage us to put ministerial responsibilities that weren't screwed up by an elected official, like recording deeds and keeping track of city council business and issuing marriage licenses, under the authority of an elected official? This proposal exempts the DMV from the new clerk and recorder position, but not other similar duties of a clerk and recorder. If we are to have one elected official run elections, that official should be limited in authority to elections only.

3. Elected clerks and recorders screw up (as Douglas County proves) just as badly as an Election Commission does, but can do so without holding public meetings that warn us and give us a chance to try to head off disaster. An Election Commission, in contrast, operates publicly. This still can't head off bull headed commissioners who won't listen to advice from the public, but it can prevent accidental screw ups.

4. The political norms that discourage Democrats from challenging incumbent Democrats, in a jurisdiction dominanted by Democrats will make it harder to oust a bad clerk and recorder, because people have a very strong tendency to vote on party lines in general elections. Look at the voters of Arapahoe County who voted in Republican Tracy Baker to be their clerk and recorder, even when he was known to be a sexually harassing screw up who later had to be recalled. I understand that the election in Denver, unlike that elsewhere in the state, will be non-partisan. But, that will likely be only a sham.

This is a bad idea. Fortunately, even if Denver voters screw up and vote for it, the consequences may not be terribly serious. Either way, elections will go on being conducted in Denver, and when good people are elected to run them, they will go well. But, going from a less than ideal system, to one that is worse, won't help the matter at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your analysis and wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, Denver's news sources seem more concerned with bashing the election itself rather than giving Denver voters food for thought. Thanks for filling the gap.