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Denver's Clerk and Recorder recommends city council consider ranked-choice voting

Election 2021 NYC Mayoral race ranked-choice voting
Posted at 6:44 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 08:48:53-04

DENVER — The City and County of Denver could be the next and largest area in Colorado to implement ranked-choice voting.

Currently, Denver’s City Council is considering two recommendations from Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez that would change some aspects of Denver’s election system.

“Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez convened a charter review committee," said Public Information Officer for the Clerk and Recorder's Office Alton Dillard. "It consisted of a former clerk and recorder, an elections attorney, and some other people from throughout the community. This actually got underway back in January. We also had an extensive public comment period.”

Dillard said after receiving feedback from the committee and community members, his first recommendation is to move Denver’s municipal election from May to April.

“Denver’s municipal election takes place in May. The next one will be in May 2023. Then the runoff has to take place within 30 days. The problem is we need 45 days to get ballots to our military and overseas voters, so the numbers don’t work,” Dillard said.

But Lopez's second suggestion, implementing ranked-choice voting in Denver, would eliminate the need for runoffs.

In ranked-choice voting, voters would pick one candidate as their top choice and one as their second and so on. If no candidate earns more than 50% of the vote, the person with the fewest first-place votes would be removed from the race and those ballots would go to whichever candidate the voter picked as a second choice. If there's still no clear winner,, the process would just repeat itself until somebody wins.

As of now in Colorado, only Basalt and Telluride use this system. Boulder voters decided in November they would start using it in 2023.

Denver's last mayoral election went to a runoff. Proponents of ranked-choice voting think the last runoff and others have cost the city a lot of money.

Dillard said ranked-choice voting would save the city and taxpayers money, but there are still costs associated with that system of voting.

“Every election we have, we essentially round to about a million dollars per election. If you do away with a runoff, that creates an instant savings. Now if we do adopt something like a ranked-choice voting model, there's a $350,000 cost, which of course is much less than the $1 million, and there’s an annual $70,000-a-year license just for the programming,” Dillard said.

Dillard said now that the recommendations are in city council members hands, it's up to them to decide how the city will move forward.

The city council’s final decision on the recommendations is expected by August.