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Why the city added new ballot drop-off boxes

Denver's election division found gaps when it comes to accessing ballot drop -off boxes in certain neighborhoods.

DENVER — Denver voters will be asked to make decisions in four elections between now and November 2020.

The city and county's elections division said they wanted to make some improvements and make it easier for people to vote in the city. 

There are now five new 24-hour ballot boxes in areas to ensure equal access across the city:

  •  La Familia Recreation Center, 65 S Elati St.
  •  Montbello Branch Library, 12955 Albrook Drive
  • Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library, 1498 N Irving St.
  • Swansea Recreation Center, 2650 E 49th Ave.
  • Westwood Community Center / SWIC, 1000 S. Lowell Blvd.

Denver's Clerk and Recorder said their data showed a majority of Denver voters still prefer to drop off their ballots in person, so they said they want voters to have as many options as possible. In November 2018, 55% of ballots were dropped off and 45% were returned by mail, according to the elections division office. 

“While Denver has always had more 24-hour ballot boxes than required by law, it’s important that we continue to ensure equal access across our city — especially in underserved areas and communities of color,” Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López. “By using our mapping data, we can identify and close those gaps.”  

After every election, the city takes a look at its mapping and returns data to scout for any changes and improvements it can make, according to Alton Dillard, the Public Information Officer for the Denver Elections Division.

Dillard said they also heard from people in the community and monitored social media conversations about concerns over access. 

"There is sort of an underserved area that starts in Montbello and works its way down I-70 in the Globeville Elyria-Swansea area, then out through part of north Denver into south Denver," Dillard said.

Dillard said the changes focus on improving accessibility and cutting down on how far some people in certain neighborhoods have to travel to turn in their ballot. With the communities help, the city picked five new locations for the 24/7 secured drop box locations, including right outside of La Familia Recreation Center. 

Its supervisor, Terrence McCoy, said he reached out to the city asking for one in the Baker neighborhood. 

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"There's not a close location to drop off your ballots in the Baker neighborhood," he said. "People had to go across Broadway to Wash Park, and a lot of people just didn't do it." 

La Familia Recreation Center focuses on active older adult programs and sports. During the last mayoral election, McCoy said people who missed their mobile drop off service for ballots showed up at the recreation center on the day of the election. 

"I mean we I would say hundreds of people coming in and trying to drop off ballots especially on that Tuesday," he said. "I would say at least 200 people came in trying to drop their ballot and we didn't have any solution for them other then sending them to another location."

When it worked out that the new ballot drop-off box would go in front of the recreation center, McCoy said it was a welcome change. 

"This is a predominately Hispanic community and it always has been," he said. "I think it's really good to get everyone out and vote."

The city has routinely added in more ballot boxes for several years. As for why there weren't enough boxes in some communities though, Dillard said it was hard to say.

"What I can say is our new clerk and recorder, Paul Lopez, that this is going to be an emphasis of his, making sure people have the ability to participate," Dillard said.

Lopez used to represent the area off Irving Street in west Denver when he was a city councilman. 

By law, Denver is required to have a minimum of 14 ballot boxes, according to Dillard. The city now has 33, with the five new additions. Next year the law has been updated, requiring Denver to have 36. Because the city is planning on putting in another four drop-boxes before the presidential primary in March, there will be 37. 

The city will open up public comment for potential locations from Oct. 7 to Oct. 21.

People can send in suggestions to the elections division online, through social media and by mail to: 

  • 200 W. 14th Ave., Suite 100, Denver, 80204.

Boxes must be in a location with 24/7 camera surveillance, which is why some of them are at libraries, recreation centers and RTD Park-and-Rides. Dillard said if that's not possible, they make sure the boxes are placed in such a way so that Denver Police halo cameras can also monitor the boxes. 

RELATED: Colorado's 2019 Blue Book already has outdated information

The four elections coming up in the next 13 months include: 

  • The coordinated elections in November. (Click/tap here for more info.)
  • The March presidential primary.
  • June state primary.
  • November presidential election.

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