One Final Embarassment for Denver Election Commission

March 28 2007, 10:00 AM
Let's all cross our fingers and make a wish, shall we? Let's hope that the city never sees a more inept agency than the Denver Election Commission (DEC). You might remember the DEC as being responsible for completely botching both the primary and general elections last year. They did such a poor job running Denver's election that voters decided in January to just disband the whole motley crew. The May election will be the last one overseen by the DEC, and they seem determined to go out with a bang. And by 'bang,' I mean 'embarrasing final act.' As The Denver Post reports:
he Denver Election Commission has scrubbed more than 100,000 residents from the active voter list since November, creating one of the smallest such lists in recent years. The move was in compliance with state regulations, officials said, but it is significant as the city heads into its first municipal all-mail-ballot election. The change does not purge registered voters. However, only "active" voters will automatically receive ballots when the city sends them out early next month. Active voters are people who voted in the last general election - in other words, last November. Councilman Doug Linkhart took issue with the move Tuesday, given what he called "extreme problems" during the November election. "To slap people in the face once in November, and then to come back and slap them again by not mailing them a ballot - I think that's too bad," Linkhart said during a meeting with Election Commission officials. Denver voters stood in line Nov. 7 for up to three hours, primarily because of problems with the software used to check in voters. The trouble was a major factor in the successful campaign to scrap the Election Commission in favor of an elected clerk and recorder. The May 1 municipal election will be the last run by the commission. Voters will elect a clerk and recorder as well as council members, the city auditor and the mayor. The last day to register to vote is Monday. Linkhart suggested the city mail ballots to the 287,000 active voters from the November election, instead of the updated list of 184,000. But Election Commission executive director John Gaydeski said Denver's voter list needed to be updated... ...Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell said the commission had followed the law. "Everybody who was on that voter registration list in November who didn't vote got a card saying 'you've been moved to inactive and if you want to restore your status, come back in and tell us that,"' he said. He noted that any registered voter who does not receive a ballot can request one. But he acknowledged that he, too, had been curious about the low number of active voters. He said the 184,000 ballots "may be the least number that we have mailed out in a mail-ballot election."
I really don't even know what else to say about the DEC at this point. There's nothing wrong with doing a purge of inactive voters; every county does it on a regular basis, because people move or just don't vote, and it gets expensive to mail ballots to people who won't even open them. But when you do a purge that eliminates nearly half of the voters from your list, then something isn't right. Most counties do a purge that takes into account more than one recent election; if you miss more than one election, perhaps you are inactive, but missing just the most recent election doesn't prove anything. Maybe you were out of town that day. Linkhart's point is dead-on in this case. Many people couldn't vote on Election Day last November because of long lines and assorted other problems. If they couldn't vote, it was because the DEC screwed up. And now the DEC is saying that people who didn't vote in November - because of their mistakes - won't get a ballot automatically because they didn't vote. Yeah, that makes sense. The positive outcome here is that voters can feel like they made the correct decision in January in choosing to get rid of the woefully inept DEC.