Secretary Williams to present award to Ouray High School

Evan Vann, a junior at Ouray High School, helped his school receive an award for voter registration.

When Evan Vann approached his fellow students at Ouray High School and asked if they wanted to preregister to vote, he got some lukewarm receptions.

“A few them said they really had no interest,” Vann recalled. “One of them told me, ‘I really don’t plan on voting — ever.'”

But Evan persisted, which is why Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Saturday will present the Eliza Pickrell Routt award to Ouray High School for its outstanding voter registration efforts. The award is given to schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors are registered to vote.

The presentation will be made at Ouray’s senior high school banquet. Vann, a junior, will be present.

Colorado is one of 11 states that allows residents as young as 16 to preregister to vote. The group Inspire Colorado has been working around the state to make it happen.

“Achieving the award at a smaller school is an impressive feat,” said Inspire Colorado’s Ryan Drysdale. “At Ouray, Evan and his teachers had to register nearly a dozen seniors in order to reach 85 percent.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Ouray County Clerk Michelle Nauer in Ouray’s elections office last year.

At the banquet, Williams will be accompanied by his wife, Holly, and the Ouray County clerk and recorder, Michelle Nauer, whose son Brendan Olin is a senior.

It was Nauer who told OHS history teacher Ashley Harthan about the award, and at the start of the school year Harthan turned to Evan because, she said, “He’s super interested in political science.”

“It’s a relatively new passion,” Evan said, saying before he was more into history and social studies.

It was U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy for president in 2016 that piqued his interest. Evan knocked on doors and made calls for Sanders.

Evan said when his teacher approached him,  “It sounded like a great experience as a way to get involved with the community and civic engagement.”

Ouray is the fifth Colorado high school to receive the award, which is named for the wife of Colorado’s first governor.  Eliza Pickrell Routt was a pioneer in women’s suffrage and who was the first woman to register to vote in the state.

Last year, Yuma High School and Eaglecrest High School received the inaugural Routt awards. This year,  Eads and Kit Carson high schools on the eastern plains and Peak to Peak charter school in Lafayette have received the awards.

Harthan, the Ouray teacher, found the experience rewarding.

“I feel like a lot more schools should get involved with this and register their students to vote,” she said.