Modernizing Our Elections

Municipal elections in Denver operate on a timeline that fails to consider the practical needs of the mail ballot model, especially for overseas and military voters. To address this, Clerk López convened a charter review committee to examine possible alternatives to the municipal elections timeline and method. The committee has completed its review, and our engagement team has asked the community for its input on the best voting models for Denver. 

The clerk has forwarded his recommendations to City Council. Read the office's media release regarding the clerk's recommendations.

View all CRC meetings and videos on our YouTube playlist

What is the problem the committee is trying to solve?

The state laws guiding election procedures are not in alignment with the Denver City Charter's timeline for municipal elections. Under the current rules, the charter does not give the city enough time to comply with state law in the case of a run-off election following a municipal election. This diagram illustrates the deadlines and election dates that are in place under the current rules:
Election deadlines by statute and charter(PDF, 73KB)
Election participation also drops off for run-off elections, and there are costs associated with holding a run-off. The Charter Review Committee was formed to resolve the timeline issue between the charter and Colorado law, while also increasing voter participation and lowering costs.

Who is on the Committee?

The Committee is comprised of seven members who are appointed by Council, the Mayor’s Office, and Clerk and Recorder Paul López:

Michael Cummings. Ph.D. | Professor Emeritus of Political Science at University of Colorado Denver – Clerk and Recorder Appointee

Hon. Kevin Flynn | Denver City Council District 2 – Council Appointee

Hon. Stacie Gilmore | President of Denver City Council District 11– Council Appointee

Mark Grueskin, Esq. | Shareholder Recht Kornfeld PC – Clerk and Recorder Appointee

Hon. Stephanie O’Malley | Associate Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations Denver University   – Clerk and Recorder Appointee

Gena Ozols | Field Director at Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights – Clerk and Recorder Appointee and Community Applicant.

Alan Salazar, Esq. | Chief of Staff for Mayor Michael Hancock – Mayoral Appointee


What is the goal of the Charter Review Committee?

The Charter Review Committee will review and recommend updates to the Charter sections concerning Denver’s municipal elections. In particular, the committee will evaluate the wisdom of a runoff election, debate alternative voting methods, and hear concerns about the current election calendar.

The committee works directly with Clerk López, his office, and other appointed members of the community, including subject matter experts and elected officials.

The seven-member committee represents an inclusive, objective approach to solving these problems. It invites feedback from numerous stakeholders, including the community for guidance during the review process. 

Why is the committee proposing changes to the Charter?

The Charter currently requires that all elected officials in Denver, except for at-large Councilmembers, must receive a majority of the votes cast in an election. Therefore, a runoff election is often necessary to secure this majority. T he Charter also requires that the runoff election be conducted about one month after the municipal election.

At the same time, the Charter requires the Clerk’s Office to conduct elections according to state election law, which requires the office to automatically mail ballots to voters three weeks before Election Day. For military and overseas voters, state law requires ballots to be mailed 45 days before Election Day. As a result, Denver has conflicting timelines in its Charter.

Finally, it costs Denver about $1 million to conduct a citywide runoff election and the city typically sees a drop in voter participation in the runoff election compared to the municipal election. Denver is also hearing a desire from activists to change our voting methods, so the committee will take this opportunity to evaluate what changes Denver ought to pursue in its home rule Charter.


What are the possible outcomes of the Charter review? How could the committee’s recommendations change the election process in Denver?

Modify the Municipal Election Voting Method

The committee will evaluate plurality, approval, and ranked choice voting methods. If Denver adopts one of these methods and eliminates the runoff election, it would save the city $1 million and could improve voter participation. 

Move the Municipal Election to November

Another option would be to move the municipal election to coincide with the existing November election. This could save $2 million by combining the costs of the elections. This option would need to be implemented alongside one of the modified voting methods (approval, plurality or ranked-choice), since it doesn't provide the time needed to administer a runoff.

Increase the Time Between the Election and the Runoff

The committee could also recommend that the city simply increase the time between the municipal and runoff elections, providing for a minimum of 30 additional days between the elections. This option would solve the timeline conflict experienced by elections administrators. Moving the election from May to April would eliminate the time crunch and the need to implement a modified voting method like approval or ranked-choice voting. The election could be administered as it is now, just on a different timeline.

What would these changes cost the city?

It is unlikely that these changes would result in extra costs, but the office anticipates any costs would be minimal.

What happens once the committee makes a recommendation to amend the Charter?

The committee will provide a written recommendation to Clerk López, who may ask City Council to place it on the November ballot for voters to approve in the November 2021 election.


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