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A teacher wears a Denver Classroom Teachers Association T-shirt in class during the strike.

A teacher wears a Denver Classroom Teachers Association T-shirt in class during the strike.

Some Denver teachers want an election do-over as just 11 votes separate union president, challenger

Some Denver teachers are raising questions about a teachers union election that saw the incumbent president win by 11 votes, a margin that triggers an automatic recount of ballots.

According to a Facebook comment from the current union vice president, a recount originally scheduled for Monday afternoon has been postponed. Union leaders did not respond Monday morning to questions about the election.

Election results emailed to teachers Friday show long-serving union President Henry Roman won 1,073 votes, while challenger Tiffany Choi received 1,062 votes. That 11-vote difference is within the threshold for an automatic recount under the union’s rules.

But there’s another issue at play, too. According to social media posts from a progressive teacher group that supports Choi, the ballots at 10 Denver schools were thrown out.

Unlike the electronic voting system the union used this year to poll its members about whether to strike, the union uses paper ballots in its officer elections. The voting is overseen by union representatives at each school, and the ballots are counted centrally.

A teacher who said she attended the vote counting explained on Facebook that a school’s ballots are thrown out if counters suspect that non-union members voted or if the number of ballots does not match the number of signatures on a sign-in sheet.

Several teachers on social media have called for going beyond a recount to a process that would allow the teachers at the 10 invalidated schools to vote again.

“Everyone understands the reasons for schools having their ballots thrown out,” one teacher wrote on Facebook. “It just happens that we don’t think the process is OK. It feels like voter suppression. It makes the outcome feel not legitimate.”

Current union Vice President Christina Medina said in a Facebook comment that a review of the union’s bylaws found that the decision on whether to hold a revote lies with an internal council of building representatives, who are teachers who serve as conduits between the other teachers in their schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.

“We are trying to call an emergency rep council meeting to approve a revote,” Choi wrote Sunday on her campaign Facebook page. Neither she nor other union leaders responded to messages Monday asking whether that meeting has occurred.

Choi is a French teacher at East High School who won a seat on the union’s board of directors two years ago. She was a leader during the February teacher strike and is part of a group of progressive young educators who want the union to focus more on social justice issues.

Roman has been president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association for 10 years. Released full time from his teaching position, he led the organization through what many considered a successful strike that resulted in higher teacher pay and more teachers joining the union.

Roman held off a challenger two years ago from the same group of young teachers, winning re-election over then-candidate Tommie Shimrock by a narrow margin of 50 votes.

This year’s election also asked teachers to vote for a new union vice president and to fill several seats on the board of directors. Rob Gould, the union’s lead negotiator and a hero to many during the strike, won the position of vice president in an uncontested race.