Special Election to Replace DEC?

Denver City Council is trying to meet a Thursday deadline to decide whether to have a special election Jan. 30. If the recommendation announced Monday by a city council committee is approved, members of the Denver Election Commission will preside over the vote asking residents to eliminate…the Denver Election Commission.

It sounds strange, but if replacing the DEC with one elected official is the goal, then some council members think the special election might be the best solution. That’s because, according to city charter, an election for DEC commissioners must be held in May. If the city waits until then to change the charter to get rid of the commission, voters will be casting ballots for commissioner candidates while also being asked if the commission should be eliminated.

From today’s Denver Post:

A Denver City Council committee tentatively approved a Jan. 30 special election Monday, a key step in a possible reform of the Election Commission.

But the possibility of adding a $600,000 election will not go forward unless council members can agree on what question residents will vote on.

A council committee is scheduled to decide that Thursday.

It’s all part of an effort to prevent another election with long lines and delayed voting tallies.

But what to do and when to do it has become a tangled proposition for city officials examining different proposals.

“Everyone of them has some downside,” city Auditor Dennis Gallagher’s spokesman Denis Berckefeldt told council members.

In looking at a special election, the council is trying to address two issues:

The first is the future of how the city will govern elections. The current system of two elected commissioners and a clerk and recorder appointed by the mayor has come under fire because of management problems, highlighted by last month’s election.

But officials have not been able to agree on an alternative – or even if an alternative is needed.

The city is considering three proposals that would scrap the commission and put elections under some form of a single, elected official. Another recommendation is expected Wednesday when Mayor John Hickenlooper’s task force on the Election Commission wraps up.

The second issue is timing. An overhaul of the Election Commission has to go before voters, but the city, by its charter, must elect two commissioners in May.

If the council puts a restructuring question on the May ballot, it would result in the conundrum of residents voting for election commissioners as well as a referred question that would do away with the positions.

A January special election could change the charter, eliminating that problem. If the council approves a January election and voters agree to the charter change, the candidates could run for the newly created position in May.

But a January election presents its own problems:

It would likely cost more than $600,000. Time is so tight that the council has to make a decision before noon Thursday. And even if they make the deadline, a public hearing on approving a special election would have to be scheduled for Dec. 26.

And finally, a new election would put major pressure on a city agency that is in turmoil.