Secretary Williams talks to clerks about voter fraud

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Wednesday address county clerks on the state’s eastern edge, who were meeting in Sterling for training. (SOS photo)

Check out staffer Julia Sunny’s video on the visit with county clerks from the eastern regional. As Kiowa County Clerk Delisa Weeks says, “We’re small, but we’re fun.” YouTube video.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addressed the issue of voter fraud when he spoke to county clerks on the Eastern Plains Wednesday, warning them that in the coming months his office could be asking about certain constituents suspected of voting twice in the 2016 election.

“Some of you are aware there were accusations that there was rampant fraud in the elections. Some said there was no fraud,” Williams said. “The answer is somewhere in between.”

Colorado is part of a national months-long check of voter histories that flags the names of voters who appeared to have voted more than once.

“I anticipate there will be some people in Colorado who voted in multiple states. There are not tens of thousands of them. It did not change the result of the election,” Williams said.

“But there are elections that decided by a single vote. I presided over those elections as a county clerk. So we care about that issue. The message from us isn’t that vote fraud never occurs, but we make it difficult to occur and we help prosecute people when we find out about it.”

Kiowa County Clerk Delisa Weeks listens to Secretary Wayne Williams at a clerks seminar in Sterling Wednesday. Behind her is Hilary Rudy, deputy elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State, and behind Rudy is Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon. (SOS photo)

Williams spoke to clerks at the east regional meeting of the Colorado County Clerks Association, which was held at the Logan County Courthouse. In addition to elections, clerks handle Motor Vehicle registrations, document recording and a variety of other duties. Some clerks brought election staff and others to the conference.

Williams stressed that the state’s election machines are not connected to the Internet and were not hacked.

And some suspected fraud the Secretary of State’s office checked out has fizzled. In one case, it turned out an election judge failed to mark a ballot as “spoiled” so it looked as if the person had voted twice. In another case, two ballots from the same address and the same birthdate involved twins, not treachery.

Williams also pointed to the 2015 investigation into Lincoln Wilson, who voted in Yuma County and in Sherman, Kan., in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections. “This wasn’t a case of a guy who said, ‘Oh, I got confused,’” Williams said.

Yuma County Clerk Bev Wenger said Wilson recently pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and was ordered to pay a $6,000 fine. He was prosecuted in Kansas, but not in Colorado after the local district attorney determined because Wilson voted first in Yuma County he did not commit voter fraud  in the state of Colorado. Williams was able to get state law changed so that Colorado can also prosecute a multiple-state voter no matter where the first vote occurred.

The clerks’ two-day seminar includes training for “off-year” elections, which will be this November. Voters statewide could be deciding transportation proposals from the legislature and the public.

“You should be rooting for something to make the ballot,” Williams joked.

That’s because if there are statewide measures on the ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State will reimburse counties via a formula based on county population and number of active voters. In 2016, the reimbursement exceeded $3 million.

Baca County Clerk Sharon Dubois and Judd Choate, the elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, at a clerks conference Wednesday in Sterling.

Williams added that three counties — including two in the eastern region — have yet to submit their request to be reimbursed for the 2016 election, when there was an array of ballot measures, and the race for president and U.S. Senate.

“If they don’t want it, they can sign it over to me. I’ll take it,” Logan County Pam Bacon said, getting a big laugh.

Williams  also talked about voter-approved measures passed this last November: Amendment 71 makes it more difficult to amend the constitution; Proposition 108 allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections without declaring party affiliation; and Proposition 107 creates a presidential primary that again allows unaffiliated participation with a declaration.

Proposition 108 will first be tested in the June 2018 primary. A working group of county election officials and Secretary of State’s employees is drafting regulations that Williams hopes to distribute next month so clerks can include it in their 2017-2018 budget presentation to their commissioners. The election will cost more because clerks will have to mail ballots from both parties to unaffiliated voters.

Currently, Democrats and Republicans get separate ballots showing their list of candidates, and unaffiliated voters do not get a ballot unless they declare a party affiliation.

The 2018 election will include the open seat for governor as Democrat John Hickenlooper is term limited. Williams, who served as the El Paso County clerk and recorder before being elected secretary of state in 2014, is running for reelection next year.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, third from left in the back row, and the county clerks in the eastern region who attended a two-day training seminar in Sterling on Wednesday and Thursday. (SOS photo)

Baca County Clerk Sharon Dubois thanked the secretary for consulting with the clerks when making decisions, and “digging into problems” and trying to solve them.

“I’ve been a clerk,” Williams said, adding he knows the frustration county clerks often face. “If you become aware of things, let us know.”

The county clerks in attendance were: Pam Bacon of Logan, Delisa Weeks of Kiowa, Bev Wenger of Yuma, Susan Corliss of Kit Carson, Jana Coen of Prowers, Pat Daugherty of Cheyenne, Beth Zilla of Phillips, Dallas Schroeder of Elbert, Sharon Dubois of Baca, Susan Bailey of Morgan and Corrine Lengel of Lincoln.