Councilman Paul López wants to focus on voter engagement for his city clerk run

He also wants to combat what he sees as a threat to voters’ rights from the White House.
4 min. read
City Council member Paul Lopez takes a congratulatory selfie with Federal Boulevard Partnership Executive Director Leslie Twarogowski. A watch party for the 2017 Denver Election, Nov. 7, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Councilman Paul López’s decision to run for city clerk is closely linked to his current attitude toward representing District 3 after 11 years.

When it comes down to it, López just wants to keep seeing the city thrive. And in this age, he wants to defend it, too.

He hinted in February that he was interested in the seat. While he said he’s loved being a city councilman for the city’s west side, there are things he’s put off doing to focus on his work on the council.

He talked about some of the progress he feels the district has made under his leadership, calling an increase in funding for projects that turned it from the least invested-in area in the city to the second-highest a highlight.

“I’m talking about, like, infrastructure, about parks, about $12.4 million right on the spine of west Denver, which is Morrison Road, which is future Cesar Chavez Boulevard,” López said, referring to the amount of money his district received from nearly $1 billion in bonds approved by voters last year. “Where people still own their properties. Where people still have their own local economy. Where there’s good organization.”

So what’s left to focus on? For López, it starts with looking at a city map and breaking it down by precincts to start gauging voter turnout. He feels it’s way too low in some of the city’s areas, including the west side and north Denver.

As a county, Denver did well during the 2016 Presidential Election. With 72 percent voter turnout, it was just over two percentage points less than the statewide average (74.4 percent).

“If you don’t have high voter propensity, chances are you’re not going to get that asphalt, right?” López said. “Chances are, you don’t have that grocery store in the neighborhood. Chances are your quality of life and the longevity of your life is less than other precincts that turnout high.”

López believes getting more people to vote starts with making it easier.

He wants to empower voters throughout the year. He wants to figure out what’s keeping people from voting.

“We can’t just be focused on Election Day,” López said. “It’s about civic participation. It’s about organizing. You gotta get out there. Any good organizer has to know their field and know who are the voters, how many homes are in this household, why they are voters, why aren’t they voters.”

This includes making sure young people, whom López said are currently experiencing a huge uptick in civic engagement, know about the pre-registration in the state.

“You see these young people? They’re on fire,” López said.

It also means ensuring there are enough polling places and drop-off boxes. He said folks sometimes neglect to return their mail-in ballots. The county currently has 28 24-hour drop-boxes, which works out to about one box for every 13,194 registered active voters in Denver (there’s currently 396,459 active voters). Denver Elections spokesperson Alton Dillard said there are also 29 voting centers in the county, including some that have 24-hour boxes in them as well. The city will also be deploying its Haul-N-Votes mobile voting center at six stops.

The need for more voter engagement has an even larger scope. (Yes, he’s talking about President Trump.)

He thinks now is the time to defend the city.

“At the end of my term as a city councilperson, watching Trump threaten our democracy, watching these folks try to strip our voice from us, trying to keep us from the polls, trying to scare us away from it, I can’t lay down my sword,” López said. “None of us should.”

He said Trump's decision to request voter's information in 2017 is concerning. (Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams ended ended up sending info that was already publicly available.)

"It's voter intimidation, and that's what he's focused on," López said. "We're not going to be bullied by him. The only thing that we have to defend ourselves is our vote."

Right now, he’s only the second candidate to officially announce, along with Margaret “Peg” Perl. He thinks his background as a community organizer, as someone who can build excitement for elections, gives him an edge over of his opponents.

“As an organizer, you’re taught to educate, agitate and organize,” López said. “And that’s what I intend to do.”

Correction: The article incorrectly said the county has 63 drop-off boxes. It has been updated to clarify this figure. 

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