Voting and vocation at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School

“I think voting rights is about human rights.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sits with seniors at Arrupe Jesuit High School Monday morning before handing out an award to the school for its effort in registering eligible students to vote. (SOS photo)

In a ceremony filled with prayers and promise, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Monday recognized Arrupe Jesuit High School for its efforts in getting students registered to vote.

The north Denver Catholic school serves the economically disadvantaged and one of its goals to empower graduates to continue their education and return to their communities as leaders. The 420-member student body is 93 percent Hispanic and 77 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, students at Arrupe Jesuit High School who encouraged their classmates to register to vote. (SOS photo)

During a senior assembly, Williams singled out two students, Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, for their efforts in working with the group Inspire Colorado to get their classmates inspired to register to vote.

Simpson and Tapia’s efforts led to the school receiving the Secretary of State’s Eliza Pickrell Routt award, which is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

“You’re going to graduate from high school soon. You’re going to be part of the community, and what happens in this community is up to you,” Williams said. “That’s the great thing about the democratic republic in which we live. There is no ‘the man” who makes the decisions for us. We get to make those decisions.”

Also addressing the seniors was state Rep. Dan Pabon, who represents the neighborhood, and Ryan Drysdale with Inspire Colorado.

“Our faith tells us we are working for the least amongst us,”  Pabon said. “I think voting rights is about human rights. ‘Democracy’ can be a controversial word in the world. There are some people who don’t want to have the people control their government because, God forbid, they might actually do something that helps the people.”

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From Telemundo to a town hall, Secretary Williams on the go

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams stands with volunteers answering election questions during a phone bank at Telemundo on Thursday. They are, left to right, Ben Schler with the SOS; John Shoch; his daughter, Gloria Shoch and Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talked elections Thursday night in two appearances, first at Telemundo and then at a town hall with Sen. Angela Williams at Manual High School in Denver.

The interview at Telemundo, an American Spanish-language television network, focused on Tuesday’s coordinated election. Most but not all of Colorado voters are deciding on contests in their districts, from tax questions to school board races and municipal contests.

In addition, the Secretary of State’s office participated in a phone bank, handling election questions from viewers.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and state Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, at a town hall Nov. 2. (SOS photo)

The conversation at Sen. Williams’ town hall concerned business operations at the office and elections, followed by a question-and-answer period.

Among the participants were Denver residents Pat Manning and Ruben Espinosa.

Secretary Williams  talked about the ballot measure voters approved last year that allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections without declaring to be a Republican or a Democrat. That means unaffiliated voters will receive both a Democrat and Republican ballot mailed to them for the June 2018 primary, but they can return only one ballot.

Already, there is plenty of interest in Colorado’s crowded open governor’s race and other contests.

“Angela and I, by the way, are two of the people in the state not running for governor,” the secretary of state said to laughter.

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Huerfano’s County election: the best kind of Cruz control

Huerfano County Clerk Nancy Cruz with one of her constant smiles as Bill Knowles, a reporter with the World Journal, and Huerfano County Commissioner Gerald Cisneros talk with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Friday in Walsenburg. (SOS photo)

The line at the Huerfano County Clerk’s counter  never seemed to subside on Friday and Clerk Nancy Cruz said it’s not just because of Tuesday’s election.

Marriage licenses, recording documents, Motor Vehicle registrations, the growing population of Huerfano County has lots of business to do and Cruz’s staff make sure it gets done.

Of course, the election is the big thing right now and the staff and election judges were taking in ballots and scanning them on the new equipment from Dominion Voting Systems.

“What a good system,” Cruz said.

Myrna Falk used to work for the clerk’s office and now is an election judge. When asked her age, she replied, “I’m older than dirt.”

“I can remember when we hand counted ballots in the basement,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot of (election) systems, believe me. But being able to run 25 ballots at a time through (Dominion), that’s something.”

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Here voter, voter: Las Animas County elections is missing Midas’ touch

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with two of Las Animas County election judges, Karen Fabec and Julie Abeyta. (SOS photo)

Midas once prowled the election offices at the Las Animas County courthouse in Trinidad, greeting voters who arrived to drop off their ballots.

Midas, in the Las Animas County elections office.

Midas’ owner, election judge Karen Fabec, is back at the courthouse but without her 14-year-old Persian cat at her side. Midas died in in August.

Fabec could hardly talk about her beloved pet without choking up so Secretary of State Wayne Williams moved on, thanking her and fellow election judge Julie Abyeta for their service.

“We’re dependent on election judges,” he said, during his visit Friday with Las Animas County Clerk Peach Vigil.

These are tough times in Las Animas County, the largest county in the state at 4,749 square miles. Faced with financial woes,  county services have been from cut from five days a week to three. Residents aren’t happy that they can’t handle their business, including motor vehicle registrations and marriage licenses, on Thursdays and Fridays so the clerk staffers hear about it when they are open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Vigil said.

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Custer County’s contentious election

How big was that ballot? Custer County Clerk Kelley Camper and Secretary of State Wayne Williams enjoy a light-hearted moment during a tour of the polling center Friday in Westcliffe. (SOS photo)

The voter turnout in Custer County will likely end up one of the highest in the state, fueled by an attempt to recall the three county commissioners and a measure to enact building codes countywide.

So far the turnout has hit 48 percent for the election, with ballots due by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“There’s just a lot of interest,” Clerk and Recorder Kelley Camper said told Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams during his visit Friday to Westcliffe. He earlier that day visited clerks in Las Animas and Huerfano counties.

Camper told Williams she was on the phone with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office quite a bit over the summer and fall, boning up on rules for a recall election. Williams is very familiar with those rules: When he served as the El Paso County clerk and recorder he oversaw several recall elections, including the recall of the state Senate president in 2013 over the Democrat’s support for tougher gun laws.

The Take Back Custer County Recall Committee is attempting to recall commissioners Bob Kattnig, Donna Hood and Jay Printz, all Republicans, alleging violation of public meeting laws.

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