|“Enough is Enough:” Mayor Hickenlooper Demands Quick Answers & Solutions to Election Troubles
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, November 8. 2006
Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, Mayor’s Office
“Enough is Enough:” Mayor Hickenlooper Demands Quick Answers & Solutions to Election Troubles
Announces Creation of Short-Term, High-Level, Action-Oriented Panel to Evaluate Problem Sources and Deliver Actionable Recommendations
(DENVER) While Election Day problems related to the introduction of new federally-mandated voting technology were prevalent throughout Colorado and the nation, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is taking quick action to help ensure those problems never occur in Denver County again. On Wednesday, Hickenlooper announced plans to convene a short-term, action-oriented investigative panel - which he and City Council President Michael Hancock will co-chair - of top public-, private- and nonprofit sector management, technology and voting experts to quickly analyze the problems that occurred and develop actionable solutions.
“From the Charter-mandated governance of the Election Commission to the processes by which they conduct elections to the technology itself - all options are on the table; nothing is sacred,” declared Hickenlooper. “The goal of this group is to evaluate the disconnection between the City’s intentions, our fully expressed expectations and the unacceptable outcomes. We must remove politics from the equation, probe deeply and act quickly.”
The high-level composition of the panel will be announced in the forthcoming days. The mayor will convene the panel for six weeks, beginning next week and concluding by mid-December. This will provide ample time to present any resulting Charter change recommendations to City Council in early 2007 for consideration on the May 2007 municipal ballot.
“In every election, there seems to be new problems and new excuses from the Denver Election Commission,” said Hickenlooper. “And in every election, both City Council and I are frustrated by the limitations on what we can do because of the Commission’s charter-mandated independence. We tried to proactively assist the Denver Election Commission – as much as they would let us – with all of the financial and human resources possible for this election, but that clearly wasn’t enough. They clearly didn’t anticipate every problem – repeatedly assuring us that their test runs were successful and rebuffing additional offers of IT assistance from our Technology Services department. There are some good, hard-working employees at the Election Commission – and some people may think I’m overstepping my bounds here – but enough is enough. While I don’t have authority over the Denver Election Commission, I will take responsibility for fixing this situation.”
Hickenlooper personally visited seven of the most high-traffic Vote Centers on Tuesday to observe the problems for himself, thank voters for their patience, encourage them to stay in line, and pledge that resolving these issues is a top priority for the City.
“The very unfortunate irony is that the new federal laws and the Commission’s resulting vote center model were supposed to make voting easier, more convenient and accessible for everyone.” Hickenlooper said. “And while I greatly appreciated the patience and good spirits of the people I met standing in line on Tuesday, voting should never take that long or be that challenging. When I think of the hours that people were away from their jobs or their families to exercise their basic right to vote, my blood boils.”
By City Charter, the Denver Election Commission is an independent agency over which the Mayor and City Council have no direct control or authority. Two of the three Election Commissioners are independently elected by Denver voters. Together with the Clerk and Recorder, they hire and manage the DEC’s Executive Director.
Prior to Election Day, the mayor persuaded the Denver Election Commission to add eight vote centers to their originally planned 47; City Council approved a roughly $800,000 budget supplemental for the DEC; the mayor convinced the DEC to utilize all of the voting machines in their possession rather than keeping some on emergency reserve; and the mayor asked City departments to identify staff willing to volunteer at Early Voting Centers, thereby enabling Denver to extend early voting hours by two hours each day.
Mayor Hickenlooper personally promoted Early Voting and helped spread the word about Vote Centers through a TV ad, radio PSAs, robo-calls, and numerous media interviews. Denver’s 3-1-1 call center provided Denver voters with information on Vote Center locations, highlighting those with the shortest wait lines, and Hickenlooper has dispatched his own appointees to Vote Centers on Election Day to assist in resolving problems and transporting voters to centers with shorter lines.
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