In what she calls a one-woman effort, Jan Tyler is waging war to save the Denver Election Commission.
Make no mistake. Tyler, a former commissioner herself, is not an admirer of the current DEC. But, she believes Denverites will be making a mistake if they vote to scrap the three-person commission in favor of a single, elected county clerk in the all-mail Jan. 30 election.
Amid much controversy, City Council decided last month to put Amendment 1A in front of voters. The debate leading up to that decision, however, centered mostly around whether or not a special election could be pulled off on such short notice – not on if replacing the commission was the right move. Tyler is convinced switching to a county clerk would be a bad decision and she said she’s using “guerrilla warfare” to get her message across.
“And of course,” she said, “I want to get on television as much as possible.”
Tyler has a history of challenging the powers that be, and she’s done it in ways that some might find inappropriate. Others, however, might find her eccentricities a welcome respite from by-the-book politics.
As an elections commissioner in 2002, Tyler strayed from posting the usual dry bio on her Denver.gov profile. According to a Rocky Mountain News article at the time, Tyler accused the “Poobahs at City Hall” of trying to wrest control from the DEC. “Inebriated with the unrestrained power of non-incumbency [sic] and the freedom of action without consequences,” Tyler wrote, “the party animals at City Council have gone wild with the perks of power: company cars, vacations, and other questionable expenditure of taxpayer dollars.”
Tyler’s current jab at city officials involves talking about The Glorious Cultural Learnings of Denver City Council, a snarky reference to the Borat movie. She said she’s going to wear out as many pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes as it takes to defeat Amendment 1A.
“I’m just going to be a really bad girl and try to bring this information to the voters,” Tyler said.
Tyler said her opposition to a county clerk stems from her own experience as a member of the Denver Elections Commission. As a Republican in a sea of Denver Democrats, Tyler said the three-person setup creates a system of checks and balances and allows the minority party to have a voice. She accuses other commission members of being too partisan and hiring incompetent people for political reasons. For example, Tyler said, she was concerned from the beginning when former DEC Executive Director Karon Hatchett hired Anthony Rainey, the technology chief who was placed on leave after the Nov. 7 election. Tyler also had concerns about now-resigned Commissioner Wayne Vaden, who she said she saw napping through certification classes.
It must be noted that Tyler has a longtime grudge against Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez, who has advocated the switch to a county clerk for more than a year. The two served as election commissioners together, and Tyler said Rodriguez and former Commissioner Sherry Jackson “acted as obstructionists” to her agenda.
Tyler said although she was able to accomplish some things at the DEC, such as instituting an elections school for staff and candidates, most of her proposals were blocked by the other members for political reasons.
“If I did nothing else I kept the political machine from dominating the commission,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons why Tyler, along with Morrissey and voter advocate Lisa Jones, believes scrapping the DEC will not solve the problems that occurred in the November election.
“A new clerk and recorder does not address the real problem,” she said. “The real problem is administrative.”
Proponents of the change say an elected clerk and recorder would be more accountable to the public. Tyler disagrees. She said the DEC currently holds regular public meetings, but a county clerk wouldn’t be required to do so.
Supporters of a single clerk also say that the system works well in 62 of Colorado’s 64 counties, and it would work in Denver, too. Tyler argues that the size of Denver, as well as the fact that the clerk would serve both the city and county, means the job is too big for just one person.
“They’re developing a political solution,” Tyler said of Amendment 1A backers. “All of them are advancing their own agendas instead of trying to really solve the problem”
More than anything, Tyler wants everyone to know she is an elections expert and not just your average concerned citizen. Elections are her avocation, she says (by day, she’s a financial adviser). Elected in 1995 and 1999, she served two terms as a member of the Denver Elections Commission. She twice earned an ongoing professional certification through the Elections Center at Auburn University, and she’s served as an international elections observer in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro.