From the Mile-High City:
Meet our DMO of the Month: Debra Johnson, Denver City Clerk and Recorder of Deeds
Colorado, known for its majestic mountains, embodies a quiet strength and Debra Johnson personifies that spirit. In 2000, as Aurora County Clerk, she led the movement to an electronic filing system—creating a seamless, cost-effective election reporting system. Johnson also coordinated several general and local elections for the city, which covered city, county, state and congressional districts. She has helped shape policy for the National League of Cities and has extensive experience in city governance.
Now, as the newly elected Denver City Clerk and Recorder of Deeds, a recently won court challenge
made her the national face of a contentious voters rights issue. It thrust her to the forefront of a legal battle trying to preserve the most precious right we have as a democracy— the federal right to vote. This month, DMO is proud to name Debra Johnson our DMO of the month.
There is a GOP movement slowly churning its way through six Republican-controlled states, including Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee—seeking to make it more difficult for individuals to cast their vote. Several bills passed in these state houses require an individual to present a birth certificate for voter registration. With the 2012 election cycle in full swing, this move will no doubt disenfranchise those most vulnerable populations (Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and elderly). These constituencies are the most affected by public policy emerging from a conservative agenda.
The Republican Colorado Secretary of State threatened to sue
Johnson’s office if they proceeded to mail voting ballots to "inactive” voters— eligible registered voters who chose not to vote in the 2010 election. The Secretary of State believed mailing ballots to these voters opened the door to rampant voter fraud. Johnson, after studying the law, did not agree. Risking a lawsuit, she sent out the ballots in defiance of the Secretary of State.
In a recenton-air interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow,
Johnson defended her decision to mail the ballots, stating, "Well, these people are registered voters. I mean, they are eligible to vote. Why should they have to do an extra step to get their ballots? And Denver has sent these ballots out to these inactive failed to vote voters for the last five elections that we`ve conducted.” In addressing the Secretary’s voter fraud claim, Johnson replied, "I haven`t found any fraudulence in the years that I`ve worked in elections. But also, too, the fraudulence comes in the event the ballot is returned from someone that shouldn’t have voted on that ballot. And there are several safeguards that have been in place so that we can make sure it is the signatures are verified and they are the person that is supposed to vote.”
Debra Johnson is also working on several initiatives, which serve to engage her constituency. She is expanding her office’s outreach into the Hispanic community by growing the membership of ACCESSO—Denver’s Spanish language voting advisory board. Johnson is also promoting legislation at the state level in the 2012 session to clarify the rights of voters classified as "inactive" to receive mail ballots. Johnson recently moved her office further into the digital age by putting Denver’s foreclosure documents online in a user-friendly format. Her goal is to move all of her office’s recorded documents to an online format.
Debra Johnson is proving to be an active Democratic voice in the Denver community. She is demonstrating her commitment to diverse constituency engagement by making the fundamental right to vote accessible to all. For these reasons and more, Democratic Municipal Officials name Debra Johnson our October DMO of the Month.