Key Things to Know About the April 4 Denver Municipal Election

The Denver municipal election takes place on April 4.
The Denver municipal election takes place on April 4. Getty Images
On April 4, three weeks after ballots were mailed out to all registered voters, the Denver Elections Division in the Office of the Clerk and Recorder will tally the votes cast in the municipal election to determine the winners for a variety of positions, as well as the status of three measures referred to the ballot by Denver City Council.

With sixteen candidates running for mayor alone, many people are taking their time filling out their ballots. Here are some key things to know about the process:

The mail-in deadline has passed

Colorado is one of the rare states that have all-mail elections, sending registered voters ballots in the mail, which gives them a chance to research candidates and issues at home, then take their time voting. But the deadline to return ballots through the mail passed on March 27. Now, to ensure that their vote is counted, people should deliver their ballots directly to a 24-hour drop box, a drive-thru, a mobile voting location or a vote center from now through 7 p.m. on election day. If they lost a ballot or did not receive one, voters can go to a vote center and vote in person. They must be in line by 7 p.m. for their vote to be counted.

Denver residents can register to vote on election day

Colorado offers voting-day registration at voting centers in Denver for those who live here but aren't registered to vote. People looking to register on election day should consult this map and visit any of the voting service and polling centers.

Denver Elections Division can help with voting questions

Questions about the ballot? Visit a vote center or call 720-913-VOTE (8683) to talk with an elections official.

"We help with where to vote and any questions, but we cannot provide info about the measures or candidates themselves," advises Lucille Wenegieme, a spokesperson for the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Voters can fix their ballots

If you've already submitted your ballot and want to change your vote, you're out of luck. However, if a voter fills out a ballot incorrectly or forgets to provide a signature, the Denver Elections Division will notify the voter and offer a chance to "cure" the ballot to make sure it counts.

"We send emails the evening of the day of processing, and mail letters the following day, to voters who need to cure their ballots. Voters whose mail ballots are rejected due to a missing or discrepant signature, or other issues, may use 'TXT2Cure' to resolve those issues and ensure their ballots are counted. They can text the word 'COLORADO' to the number 28683, and provide the necessary info to get started with the cure," says Wenegieme.

Many voters are in new districts

After the U.S. Census is conducted every ten years, Denver City Council redraws council district maps to keep pace with the Mile High City's population changes. As a result, a Denver voter could be in a different council district from the last election. "About 64,000 voters are in a new district following city council’s redistricting process. Your ballot should be for your new district if that’s the case, but feel free to double-check with us," says Wenegieme.

According to the U.S. Census in 2020, Denver's population grew from 600,158 in 2010 to 715,522. The city's eleven council districts are supposed to have populations within 10 percent of about 65,000 constituents, and so are redrawn to reflect population changes. Under city charter rules, each district must also be as compact as possible and contain contiguous territory.

In March 2022, Denver City Council approved the map for this municipal election. Some of the most notable changes from the previous map: Part of downtown was moved from District 9 to District 10, while District 9 gained North Park Hill and South Park Hill from District 8. But District 10 lost neighborhoods in the south of the district, such as Cherry Creek and Country Club, with those shipping over to District 5.

Many races will head to runoffs

Aside from the Denver City Council at-large race, all other municipal races in Denver require a candidate to get more than 50 percent of the vote to be declared a winner. As a result, the more crowded races are almost certain to head to a June 6 runoff between the top two-vote getters.

With sixteen candidates running for mayor (a seventeenth candidate on the ballot, Kwame Spearman, dropped out after ballots were printed, so votes for him won't count), that race is sure to go to a runoff between the two top vote-getters.

The at-large council races are only one round

The Denver City Council at-large races are only one round, winner takes all.  Since two seats are up for grabs this time, the top two vote-getters simply win the race.

In 2019, the two incumbents, Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech, won the at-large race, with Ortega getting the most votes at 36.2 percent and Kniech coming in second with 27.5 percent. There are no incumbents this time around since Ortega and Kniech are term-limited (Ortega is running for mayor this election cycle). Since the ballot has nine candidates running for the at-large seats, the winning vote counts will likely be lower than what took Ortega and Kniech over the finish line in 2019.

Results aren't official until April 20

The Denver Elections Division certifies the vote on April 20; until then, the count is unofficial. But well before then, Denver will have a pretty clear picture of who won and who lost. How fast that picture becomes clear will depend on how quickly the division can count votes.

In November, during the midterm elections, Denver took days to count all of the votes. The Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office attributes this to so many people voting the day before the election and the day of the election rather than returning their ballots sooner. That ballot was also very long.

The April 4 election ballot is much shorter by comparison, which helps with faster processing. The clerk's office also expects turnout for the municipal election to be lower than the turnout in November, which saw 287,842 people, or 63.44 percent, vote out of 453,706 registered voters in Denver.

In May 2019, the last municipal election in Denver, 186,402 people or 45.95 percent voted, out of 405,638 registered voters.

As of March 30, ballots for 10.39 percent of the city's registered voters had been received at the Denver Elections Division.

The closest races could require recounts

Although they're rare in Denver, recounts do happen in municipal elections — but the vote needs to be extremely close. The margin of victory has to be less than or equal to one-half of 1 percent of the top vote-getter's count to trigger an automatic recount in a race in which one candidate has gotten a majority of the votes. The same formulation applies for the margin of difference between the second-place candidate and the third-place candidate in a runoff situation.

A recount would begin on April 20, once the election results are certified.

"High turnout would mean a longer recount, but a recount would likely take days, not weeks. For the initial count and any recount, we’re going for accuracy as well as speed," says Wenegieme.

Voters can track ballots and results

Any Denver voter can track their ballot by signing up for BallotTrax at denvervotes.org under the "track your ballot" section. Voters can also track results at denvervotes.org starting after the polls close at 7 p.m. on April 4.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a former staff writer at Westword, where he covered a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports; he now lives in upstate New York.

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