There was a time when Colorado bars weren't allowed to open until the polls closed. This year, though, you can vote in a bar -- or close enough. On August 13, the banquet room of the Wynkoop Brewing Co. will be the official polling place for registered voters living in Denver precinct 518. That's a new precinct, one added to accommodate the boom in LoDo residents.
And while most polling places are in churches, schools or community centers, "there isn't much of that in LoDo," points out Alan McBeth, director of communications for the Denver Election Commission. "We have to service voters in every area."
When a bar isn't serving them, that is. McBeth points out that the Wynkoop space "follows the letter of the law: You must be a hundred feet from serving of alcohol, and it has a separate entrance, so people don't have to walk through the bar."
By early this week, the Denver Election Commission had already collected 21,000 absentee votes; another 500 voters had voted early at polling places in local supermarkets. And contrary to a certain voter's guide in a certain broadsheet-sized daily, any registered voters in Denver can cast a ballot in next Tuesday's election -- whether or not they're affiliated. At polling places across the state, "unaffiliated voters can declare on primary election day that they want to affiliate and vote in that party's primary," notes Bill Compton, director of elections with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office. But because Denver is a home-rule municipality, explains McBeth, "ours is not the primary election; it's the state primary and special municipal election." That means any registered voter, unaffiliated or not, can at least vote on the four proposed amendments to the Denver City Charter.
One of those proposals, 1D, calls for raising the salary of city councilmembers high enough to drive most Denver residents to drink.
Perhaps at the Wynkoop.
"If you believe that a restaurant should be a community center, what greater service can you provide than to be at the hearth of democracy?" says Wynkoop owner -- and rumored mayoral candidate -- John Hickenlooper. "Everyone should be doing everything they can to get people to vote."
Especially next May, John?
Native sons: What's the least desirable name in Denver these days? Apparently, it's James Thompson. That's the name James Ujaama started with before the Denver native moved to Seattle, changed his name, became related -- by marriage -- to Denver mayor Wellington Webb, became an activist, became unrelated to Denver mayor Wellington Webb, moved to London, became a different kind of activist (allegedly), and moved back to Denver. "I love it here," he told the Rocky Mountain News's Charlie Brennan. "I've wanted to think about this as a place where I can come back to, where I can contribute to my family and to my city."
And contribute he did, with national headlines that related how on July 22, the 36-year-old Ujaama was snagged as a material witness in an FBI terrorism investigation that recently landed him in a Virginia jail cell -- not far from Zacarias Moussaoui.
The "20th terrorist" is another big fan of Denver: In April, he asked that his trial be moved from U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to this very city, since "no doubt...the high altitude and the fresh air will bring back some sense of security (maybe?)."
J.T. Colfax shares with Ujaama not just a former name, but a familiarity with jail cells. He, too, started out as James Thompson back in 1963, before the Denver native decided he was a writer, changed his name (he ditched Thompson because he didn't want to be confused with noir novelist Jim Thompson), moved east, became a gay hustler, decided he was a performance artist, terrorized the residents of Clarksburg, West Virginia, moved back to Denver, took a job with the transport company responsible for the City of Denver's dead-body pickup, got popped for taking snapshots of corpses wearing party hats, got popped again for stuffing burning paper through a mail chute at the former home of John and Patsy Ramsey, finally got out of jail and moved to New York state, where he's now collecting graffiti commenting on 9/11.
The other 55 James (or Jim) Thompsons in the Denver phone book have a lot to live down to.