Denver clerk and recorder: Furlough days conflict with election cycle

López: Proposed days would 'violate federal and state election mandates'

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Denver's top elections official sent a letter Friday to Mayor Michael Hancock, saying three of the five days identified as mandatory furlough days for Denver’s city employees are in conflict with the 2020 election calendar.

In a May 15 letter to Hancock, elected Clerk and Recorder Paul López wrote that the proposed days would “violate federal and state election mandates” by causing “disruption to the operation of voter service and polling centers, elections facilities and election-support operations during a high-turnout and high-profile presidential election.”

On May 14, Hancock announced that all non-uniformed city and county employees would be required to take eight mandatory furlough days — five of which were scheduled and three could be taken at the employee’s will.

The five scheduled furlough days will include a closure of services to the public. They are July 6, Sept. 4, Oct. 19, Nov. 27, and Dec. 24.

The three days of López’s concern are July 6, Sept. 4 and Oct. 19. These dates, according to his letter, are important for elections processing and preparation purposes — the first coinciding with processing the June 30 state primary election, the second for ballot preparation and TABOR notice, and the third falls on the first day that the state requires voter service and polling centers to open ahead of the November general election.

“As the duly elected clerk and recorder and chief elections official for the county,” López wrote, “by federal, state and local law, it is my obligation and duty to administer the two remaining elections without disruption.”

The furlough days are a budget-saving measure to help lessen the gap of the city's revenue loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is projecting a $226 million loss in revenue, according to Hancock’s May 14 press conference.

The furlough days affect about 13,000 city and county employees, and expected to reflect a $16 million savings.

In his letter, López proposed to exempt essential elections personnel, including all employees in the Office of the Clerk and Recorder and all others “necessary and responsible for the operations of city facilities for election-related purposes.”

He cited a provision in the city charter saying that "the (city) council shall appropriate sufficient funds to the Clerk and Recorder to enable the Clerk and Recorder to conduct elections and to obtain suitable offices, supplies, and employees to perform his or her duties."

López began his letter stating that he and his appointees intend to “voluntarily furlough in solidarity with the public servants doing so in our city.” His objection, he said, was to the furlough schedule.

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