The eight mandatory furlough days that must be taken by roughly 10,000 Denver city employees to help cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus will interfere with the 2020 election cycle, Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez wrote Friday in an “urgent” letter to Mayor Michael Hancock.
“The proposed furlough schedule is in direct conflict with the election calendar and will cause 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, and would violate Federal and State election mandates,” Lopez wrote.
Three of the five required unpaid days will “directly contradict” with the election calendar, he said. The first, on July 6, coincides with ballot processing for the June 30 state primary.
The second, on Sept. 4, conflicts with the state ballot certification deadline, “when our team needs to be available to prepare the ballot and TABOR notice for November,” Lopez told Hancock.
“The third, October 19, falls on the first date we are required under state law to open voter service and polling centers. Since nine of the 12 sites we are opening that day are in city facilities, that furlough day and corresponding city shut down will impede our ability to open vote centers and follow state law,” Lopez said.
Therefore, he said, it is his “obligation and duty” to administer the two remaining elections without disruption and invoke parts of the city charter that would allow City Council to appropriate “sufficient funds” to his office to do so.
Lopez laid out a three-tiered proposal: That his office’s 2020 budget revisions be approved without reductions; that all of his office’s employees be considered essential personnel and be exempted from furloughs; and that any employees outside of the office who are critical to elections be exempt from furloughs as well.
“This proposal will ensure our ability to continue to protect democracy in our city, fulfill our legal mandate to ensure access to the ballot box, and protect the national model that three decades of dedicated employees have worked so hard to create,” he wrote.
"Just as the Department of Finance will be working with other agencies, such the airport and 911," Hancock spokesman Mike Strott told Colorado Politics in an email, "that may have operational challenges with fixed furlough days, department leadership will be meeting with Clerk and Recorder Lopez on Monday to discuss how to preserve their operational needs, including those around elections.”