City’s furlough schedule will interfere with the election cycle, Clerk and Recorder tells mayor

Paul Lopez notified Mayor Hancock of the issue in a letter dated for today.
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Paul Lopez is sworn in as Denver Clerk and Recorder on the City and County Building steps, July 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In a letter dated to be sent to the mayor today, the office that oversees Denver's elections said the city's furlough schedule will interfere with its ability to process votes and other election functions.

About 9,000 of the city's 12,000 employees must take eight furlough days by the end of the year to help curtail a massive budget deficit the city is projecting due to the coronavirus shutdown. Five days will be fixed, and employees will get to pick the other three days.

The first of the fixed days, July 6, coincides with ballot processing for the June 30 primary, the city and county's Clerk and Recorder, Paul Lopez, told Mayor Hancock. The second, September 4, coincides with the state's ballot certification deadline "when our team needs to be available to prepare the ballot and TABOR notice for November," Lopez wrote. The third, October 19, falls "on the first date we are required under state law to open voter service and polling centers," he said.

"Since nine of the 12 sites we are opening that day are in city facilities, that furlough day and corresponding city shut down will impede our ability to open vote centers and follow state law," Lopez continued.

Lopez said he was invoking parts of the city charter that would allow City Council to appropriate "sufficient funds" to his office to conduct elections. He's asking that the office's 2020 budget revisions are approved without reductions and that all Office of the Clerk and Recorder employees remain essential personnel and are exempt from furloughs (and that any city employees outside of the office who are essential to elections avoid furloughs, as well).

"This proposal will ensure our ability to continue to protect democracy in our city, fulfill our legal mandate to ensure access to the ballot box, and protect the national model that three decades of dedicated employees have worked so hard to create," Lopez wrote.

City spokesman Mike Strott said Lopez's concerns will be considered.

"Just as the Department of Finance will be working with other agencies, such the airport and 911, that may have operational challenges with fixed furlough days, department leadership will be meeting with Clerk and Recorder Lopez on Monday to discuss how to preserve their operational needs, including those around elections," Strott wrote in an email.

This story has been updated with a comment from the city of Denver.

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