Joan Lopez 9News interview

Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Joan Lopez answers questions in an interview with 9News on Nov. 7, 2019, about the delay counting ballots in the just-completed off-year election.

Citing "concerns about a lack of fairness and bipartisanship" and numerous missteps surrounding administration of the just-completed election, the Arapahoe County Republican Party is calling on Joan Lopez, the county's Democratic clerk and recorder, to resign.

Through a spokeswoman, Lopez, the county's top election official, told Colorado Politics that she's staying put. She also issued a defiant statement Thursday boasting that her office has "achieved numerous successes" in the year she's been in office.

Lopez drew fire in the days following the Nov. 5 election for delays counting the vote and problems delivering some mail ballots on time. The criticism only intensified as the count dragged on and the race for Aurora mayor, one of the contests decided by county voters, went down to the wire.

"No, I don’t expect her to resign. It’s up to her," Dorothy Gotlieb, chairwoman of the Arapahoe County GOP, said after the county party's central committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling on Lopez to "resign immediately" in order to "restore the faith of Arapahoe County voters in the integrity, credibility, and fairness of the election process."

The lengthy resolution listed grievances Republicans have been lobbing at Lopez since she ousted the Republican incumbent in last year's wave election, including involvement for months after she took office in a partisan independent expenditure committee that calls itself "Hardcore Democrats" and distributing a taxpayer-funded flier that urged resident to "Vote early and vote often."

"I honestly think that we would not have made any complaints at all, had the election both appeared to be and actually was fair, consistent and competently run," Gotlieb said. "I don’t think we would have had a complaint at all."

The Aurora mayoral election — conducted by clerks in the three counties that include parts of the suburban city — saw one flub after another, including tens of thousands of ballots that had to be reissued to voters in neighboring Adams County after the first batch included a typo.

In addition, in a bungle officials have blamed on the Post Office, more than 650 replacement ballots weren't delivered to some Arapahoe County voters until about four hours before the polls closed on Election Day. (Postal officials say they delivered the ballots on time, in line with the postage rate paid by the clerks.)

After the vote was final, the two top finishers in the Aurora mayor's race — Mayor-elect Mike Coffman and Omar Montgomery, who trailed by just 215 votes out of nearly 75,000 ballots cast — called on election officials to figure out what led to all the problems.

"Quite frankly, in all my years of politics, I don't know an election with as many mistakes at as many different levels as this election," Coffman said after declaring victory. "Corrective action was taken all along the way, but I think there needs to be really a deep dive after the fact into this election as to how these mistakes were made."

"We've got to make sure it doesn't happen to any other candidate again," Montgomery said after conceding the race. "Do we think it had an impact on the election? Yes."

He added: "People didn't get a chance to express the most precious thing they have as a citizen, and that is the right to vote."

In an interview conducted two days after the election with Colorado Politics partners at 9News, Lopez struggled to articulate why voters should have faith that she was counting the ballots fairly and in a nonpartisan manner.

“I think, um, it is very partisan right now as far as, um, the political climate,” Lopez said, adding, “I don’t know how to answer that,” before looking for assistance to a spokeswoman off camera.

After some prompting from her staffer, Lopez said that the public is welcome to tour the facility, and that bipartisan teams are responsible for all aspects of processing and counting the ballots.

The Arapahoe Republicans included a reference to the interview in their resolution, charging that Lopez "has failed to instill the confidence voters expect of their county clerk or to even express to voters the basic tenets of her job in interviews."

Kristin Mallory, chair of the Arapahoe County Democratic Party, said Thursday in an online post that even though she wants Aurora to change its form of government to become a city-and-county — like Denver and Broomfield have done — she's standing behind Lopez and opposes the GOP's call for her to resign.

On Wednesday, Lopez spokeswoman Winna MacLaren said her boss wasn't available for an interview because she was "really trying to work to push this election across the finish line," including wrapping up a post-election "risk limiting audit" that determined the ballot count accurately reflected the vote.

In a written statement, after noting that her office handles elections, motor vehicle registration and recording duties, Lopez said:

"My team is a committed group of public servants, each with expertise in their respective fields, and we’ve achieved numerous successes in all of our departments throughout 2019. We’re working toward continuous improvement in all of our operations and always welcome feedback and input from all sources and stakeholders. As we move into 2020, we will continue to build on our successes and strive to achieve our Service First goals.”

Neither Lopez nor MacLaren responded to a follow-up question from Colorado Politics asking whether she considered administration of the 2019 election one of her office's successes. 

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