Sept 28, 2011
by Todd Shepherd
DENVER CLERK RAN 2007 AURORA ELECTION, MAILING NO BALLOTS TO INACTIVE VOTERS
Denver Clerk Debra Johnson's website says she won't back down from a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Secretary of State seeking to restrict her from mailing out ballots to registered voters who have been labeled "inactive failed to vote (IFTV)." The statement says, "[Mailing ballots to IFTV's] is a fundamental issue of fairness and of keeping voting accessible to as many eligible voters as possible."
Yet in 2007, Johnson conducted a municipal mail-only election in Aurora that sent ballots only to active voters. No ballots to registered but inactive voters were mailed at all, and according to the city's website at the time, "There will be no Precinct Polling Places, Vote Centers or Early Voting sites open for the 2007 Election."
Johnson says equating Aurora's 2007 election to Denver's upcoming election is an apples-to-oranges comparison. "The City of Aurora didn't conduct the elections, we coordinated with three different counties," Johnson said.
Johnson added that in order for the 2007 Aurora election to have included mail ballots to any kind of registered yet inactive voter, she would have needed an agreement with the clerks in Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas Counties. When asked if she took any steps toward creating or discussing such an agreement, Johnson said she did not.
The Denver Clerk and Recorder website also says that Denver has mailed ballots to IFTV's in the last five mail ballot elections "without issue from the Secretary of State."
Secretary of State Scott Gessler and others have claimed that an excess of mailed ballots could be used fraudulently. Gessler was elected to the Secretary of State's office in 2010, and Johnson moved from being the municipal clerk of Aurora to the Denver Clerk and Recorder job this past June.
In the June 2011 municipal election, Denver mailed out a total of just over 300,000 ballots total. About 70,000 were IFTV's. According to Johnson's statement, 10,655 IFTV voters returned their ballots. Ultimately, however, roughly 154-thousand mail ballots were never returned, more than half of the total ballots mailed out.
Other counties have cited cost as a factor when deciding to mail only to active voters. In 2009, a new law required clerks to mail to both active and IFTV's. Under those circumstances, according to a report from KOAA in Colorado Springs, roughly 27-thousand ballots were mailed to IFTV's in El Paso County. Only 29 of those ballots were returned. According to the Douglas County Clerk Jack Arrowsmith, in their 2009 coordinated election, just over 10-thousand IFTV ballots were mailed. Of those, 351 were returned. The 2009 portion of the law mandating that ballots be sent to IFTV's was repealed by sunset effective this July 1.