Fresh off announcing plans to leave her current post, Denver Director of Elections Amber McReynolds is already thinking ahead to her next step.
McReynolds said the move to serve as executive director of National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition will give her time to consider whether or not to run for Denver Clerk and Recorder. Current Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson — McReynolds’ current boss — announced in July 2017 she wouldn’t seek re-election in the May 2019 contest.
She didn’t want to run for the seat while she served as director of elections, saying she felt it would have been “odd” to run in an election she was helping oversee.
McReynolds’ last day at Denver Elections will be August 15. She will continue to work from Denver overseeing Vote at Home, which advocates for states to adopt a mail-in ballot system like the one Colorado has. McReynolds was a big proponent of the bill that helped make this a statewide system in 2013. The organization will be reaching out to legislative bodies and local election offices.
Vote at Home initially contacted her earlier this year about having her join their board.
“The reason they approached me is the national Vote at Home coalition very much is modeling what Colorado has done,” McReynolds said.
Colorado voters get their ballots mailed to them, which they can then return at drop-off boxes. McReynolds said this model is more cost-effective for local governments, allows for greater voter accessibility and is more secure.
“They essentially want to share and sort of encourage the type of model that we have here,” McReynolds said. “I was really happy to join the board and then I’ve been kind of in that role and they sort of jokingly would say, ‘We need to find Amber’s twin to run the national Vote at Home coalition.’”
McReynolds said Colorado had a mail-in ballot request option for close to 20 years. The bill she advocated for — which passed in 2013 — made this the default. Coloradans still have the option to vote in-person. She described one of the ways voters can benefit from having more time to consider a vote (Colorado also has same-day voter registration).
“Voters now can actually have time with their ballot,” McReynolds said. “In the kind of old, traditional ways of polling places or what have you, you have to go into a polling place, you’re maybe seeing the ballot for the first time, trying to fill it out in a voting booth and you don’t have access to your computer or your notes or any of that to kind of complete your ballot.”
The option has earned McReynolds and her staff thank-you notes from voters who said they’re grateful for the added time.
It was among the accomplishments she said she was most proud of during her time in the elections office. She was also proud of her coworkers at the office, which she called, “the most incredible group of individuals” to work with.
“The 2013 modernization bill was huge,” McReynolds said. “We won a significant lawsuit in 2012 … it was about inactive voters being taken off the rolls and we won a lawsuit. We were sued by the secretary of state’s office and told not to mail ballots to inactive voters.”
The bill had widespread support from county clerks, though among its opponents at the time was then-El Paso County Clerk and Recorder and current Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
“People hesitate because it’s change,” McReynolds said. “It was a big change. We modernized an entire voting process. Registration, all the way to balloting and made it more effective for voters.”
Her mentioning of Williams sparks a new question: Would she ever consider his office? She cites her passion for voting and making government more efficient, two things she said she feels she’s done in Denver Elections.
“For me, anything I do next, whether it’s County Clerk or something, right, it’s gotta have that thread that I’m passionate about,” McReynolds said. “It’s voting, it’s efficiency, it’s innovation, all those things are important to me.”