In the race to decide who oversees elections in Arapahoe County, the Democratic incumbent, Joan Lopez, has a wide early lead over Republican challenger Caroline Cornell, according to unofficial results just after 4 p.m. Nov. 9.
Lopez held 62% of the vote to Cornell’s 38%. Lopez has garnered 116,200 votes to Cornell’s 71,900. These are early results and election officials continue to count ballots.
"While this election did not go the way I had hoped, I remain proud of the race our team ran," Cornell said in an afternoon statement on Nov. 9. "We focused on the issues impacting Arapahoe and solutions that would improve services for residents."
Cornell thanked her supporters, also thanking election workers "for stepping forward during this partisan point in our history."
"Our bipartisan teams ensure we have fair elections in Colorado," Cornell said in the statement.
Lopez, 52, lives in unincorporated Arapahoe County in the east Centennial area. Cornell, 53, also lives in unincorporated Arapahoe County in the east Centennial area.
The clerk runs the elections process in Arapahoe County. The clerk’s office also records public documents, such as real estate records, and issues marriage and civil union licenses. It includes the county Division of Motor Vehicles, or DMV.
Arapahoe County’s DMV offices are still appointment only — not offering walk-in services — and that’s a policy Cornell has said is a “pain point for the community.” She added she wants to “get us back to more normal the way other counties are in Colorado.”
Lopez said since eliminating walk-in service, the clerk’s office has saved the county “over a hundred thousand dollars in overtime.” She argues appointment-only service is a better way of doing business.
"My employees aren't stressed out and know what time they will get home to their families. People are in and out and on with their day within 15 minutes,” Lopez said in response to a Colorado Community Media questionnaire.
Cornell calls herself a “civics geek” and a small-business owner with experience being responsive to the public.
She runs a “career coaching” consultancy — a line of work that helps people make career changes, such as by teaching them how to navigate job interviews and resumes. She also serves as the board chairperson of Girl Scouts of Colorado and has worked in parent-teacher community organizations, she said.
She felt the clerk’s race gives her an opportunity to take her education and experience and “wrap it up” together to serve the public.
“I can see opportunities for us as clerk and recorder to help build community outreach and boost voting. People recognize that they can vote — they don’t always recognize that they should. There’s that voter apathy,” Cornell told CCM, adding she wants to change that.
Lopez, who served as a local Democratic Party leader in state House District 37, heard complaints about lacking access to voting in certain areas. She wanted to open a voting center at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in northwest Aurora — an area where she says not many people have transportation — but heard it wasn’t available. She wanted to make a change, so she decided to run for clerk, winning election in 2018.
One of the first actions she took in office was to push for opening the voting center at that library, and it opened in 2019, she said.
Lopez worked in Arapahoe County government for about two decades. She started in a motor vehicle office and handled driver’s licenses, eventually volunteering to take elections work, helping in different parts of the clerk and recorder’s office where they needed her, she said.
Transparency in elections is another topic Cornell had her eye on during the campaign.
“I hear from Republicans that if they have a question, they’re turned off and they’re shut down. I’m really not OK with that,” Cornell told CCM previously.
She emphasized that she herself is not into election conspiracy theories.
“I think the people that are asking questions are hearing things in the media (and social media) coming from a place of disinformation. But you still have an obligation to clarify (that) so we can disprove,” Cornell said previously.
Asked whether she thinks there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election and whether the election was legitimate, Cornell said previously: “As someone who was on the ballot in 2020, I would have had an opportunity to challenge the results if I wanted to. The election did not go the way I wanted it to, but I accepted the results.”
Cornell ran unsuccessfully for state House District 37 in 2020.
As claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election continue to impact current politics, Lopez said she works to ensure the public is updated on “every process” in elections, such as by releasing informational videos. Lopez’s office has done a live Facebook tour of the elections warehouse in Littleton, showing how ballots are processed.
“When people say dogs are voting, you need to show them the process … And if someone is cheating the system, they get caught. We send them to the (District Attorney’s Office), and there’s an investigation that goes on. There’s so many checks and balances to the whole process,” Lopez said previously, noting “how hard it is to vote fraudulently or make a fake ballot.”
*** Election results will be updated on election night, Nov. 8, and, as necessary, on Nov. 9 or later. Check back for the latest results. ***
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