Out Front - Peg Perl: Making Change One Form at a Time

(4/11/19) Addison Herron-Wheeler wrote an engaging article about the Clerk’s office after our interview, including my goals for working to support LGBTQ inclusion and equality through the public records, recording, and voting services if elected Clerk.

If you’re like me, and a lot of folks, the office of clerk & recorder might sound like a bunch of red tape. Well, it is, but it’s very important red tape it turns out, especially for queer folks. Did you realize that right now, there’s no way to mark nonbinary as a gender on marriage licenses in Denver? Did you know there’s no nonbinary option on voter registration?

Peg Perl knows all this, and that’s why she’s running for clerk & recorder. She wants to make sure that folks in the city of Denver have options when it comes to registering to vote, getting married, and making other important changes, regardless if they are trans, queer, homeless, or in some other way marginalized. We recently spoke with her about her plans for the city if she wins office.

What made you want to run for clerk and recorder?
I’m a public interest attorney. I started at the national level, but I’ve also done it at the state and local level. I’ve worked in voting rights and policy for campaign finance reform, in access for public records, and in government ethics. I’ve done this work, and with the federal government, I was an attorney in the Federal Election Commission.

Then I worked for the U.S. House of Representatives on the ethics committee. Both of those were nonpartisan positions. Coming out of law school, I decided that what I wanted to focus my public career on was a nonpartisan approach to how people interact back and forth with governments, and how the structure of our government and democracy facilitates decision making.

If people are more involved in government, then the substantive decisions made by elected officials will better reflect the people they’re supposed to actually be representing.

What are some of your goals if you get into office?
I really want to integrate a lot of the different services and parts of the corporate office together. That includes the purchase, the elections administration, and also the City Public Records, the land records, and marriage licenses.

Those may sound random, but to me, there really is a common thread. The clerk is an independent officer who doesn’t answer to the mayor or the city council, because the sole job of the clerk is to connect the residents of Denver with city government and to be involved in city decision making and policy.

On election day, it’s pretty obvious how we do that. The courthouse connects people to making decisions by voting and getting them involved in government by voting. But the rest of the time, in between elections, the public records transparency duties, the Government Ethics duties, the licensing and services duties, are really about connecting people to government all those other days as well. When they want to get involved, or they want information about decisions that are being made, someone can speak up in a public meeting about a development that’s going on.

Right now, the divisions are kind of siloed off from each other into separate services. My main vision is to really integrate across those divisions, both internally and from the Denver resident perspective, so that when they are interacting with the office, the information crosses back and forth, and you can access all of that information in a more holistic way.

An example of this would be, as I look up my personal city council person, I maybe want to look at their financial disclosure and their campaign finance filings and the city contracts they were involved in, and any gifts they received, and right now, those are in four different parts of the clerk’s office. You have to go looking for them in four different places; they’re not connected in any way.

How will the changes you plan to make impact the LGBTQ community? I’m well-versed in doing work for gender inclusivity and anti-discrimination. I’ve always been in collaboration with One Colorado and with other LGBTQ organizations, because it’s about making sure that all the community’s access is not impeded in any way and voices are being heard. There are some very specific things that I think the court’s office can do to promote equality.

In the clerk’s role, I think there’s a couple places where we can kind of take those general support concepts and put them into practice. For example, on our marriage licenses right now only have gender choice options of male and female, even though we have a lot of gender identity choices for birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

One of my immediate goals is that we need these same identity options to be consistent across everything, including marriage licenses, because these are important steps to identity in people’s lives, and they should all be able to properly reflect who they are.

Voter registration is somewhat similar, although the gender question on the voter registration form is optional. But again, we have an inconsistent system when it comes to how we deal with gender identity across some of these documents. So I think that’s an example where, as clerk, I can provide support and make things easier.

What long term impact would you like to have on the city? 
I think it’s really important to have a number of options and a number of ways to access things so that you can meet people where they are, and realize that those needs change over time. So, for example, we can put public records online; that’s great. But we also need to realize that some people’s only access to internet service is through a cell phone.

We needed to really be mobile-friendly, because for some people, that’s the only way they can access things. And for other people, they either don’t want to or can’t access even that. And so, I want to partner with the libraries in the neighborhoods to make sure that we have information available through the libraries as well, so that we have multiple points of entry to access and engagement.

Read the article at Out Front here.