By Julia Sunny and Lynn Bartels
A group of Armenian officials who met with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams Thursday were interested in a variety of topics, including overseas Americans participating in elections back home to the upcoming presidential contest.
Williams explained Colorado is a “swing” state that sometimes votes Republican and sometimes Democrat for president. He stunned the delegation when he told them that Hillary Clinton spoke in Denver on Tuesday and Donald Trump would be here Friday.
“Seriously? Here?” one Armenian asked.
One visitor said he if were able to vote in the election he would choose Bernie Sanders.
The Armenians’ visit is part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Williams has met with other IVLP visitors before, including a group from the Middle East in March. Those visitors asked about marijuana and the “messy” precinct caucuses they had just observed.
The six-member Armenian delegation is traveling across the country. It will meet with the Cleveland Council on World Affairs in Ohio next week.
The presidential election is being closely observed overseas, and Williams was asked his thoughts.
“There have been years in which I got my first choice for president. I was a county co-chairman for George W. Bush. I worked hard for Ronald Reagan,” he said. “This is one of those years I don’t get my first choice.”
He added he is a pledged delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who later stopped campaigning for the race.
It’s unclear if Williams’ mention of Cruz figured in when Khachik Harytunyan, a publicy policy expert with the Transparency International Anticorruption Center, declared his support for the candidates.
“If I were an American citizen,” he said, “my ideal candidate would be 60 percent Bernie Sanders, 40 percent Ted Cruz, 5 percent Ben Carson and 5 percent (Mike) Huckabee. ”
The numbers and the ideology don’t add up, but it is clear Armenians are paying attention.
Armenian Kamo Asatryan, head of the country’s anti-corruption program monitoring division, said Armenians who are living outside of the country are not allowed to vote. He asked about Colorado allowing residents who are living overseas to participate.
Williams explained the history behind it.
“They was a strong feeling that the people who were protecting the right to vote and protecting our nation’s freedom deserve the right to vote themselves,” he said, adding he has expanded military and overseas voting since taking office in January 2015.
Coloradans who fit that category of voter get their ballots mailed to them 45 days before an election or they can receive their ballots electronically.
“That covers the folks who may not have mail service for some reason — they’re in a submarine underneath the polar ice cap. They have to certify they can’t return it by mail,” the secretary said. “We communicate with them frequently. We send them e-mails letting them know what’s going on, what’s happening.”
Julia Sunny is a student at Colorado State University interning in the Secretary of State’s office.