By Lynn Bartels and Julia Sunny
Colorado’s county clerks and their staffs learned about election security and costs, Motor Vehicle registration kiosks and privacy vs. public access from a stakeholder’s viewpoint at their conference in Snowmass Village this week.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams addressed the Colorado County Clerks Association on Tuesday, outlining legislation his office advocated for, the state’s leading status when it comes to voter turnout and registration, and future training to learn about election audits.
“Let me tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to work with you and how much I and my staff appreciate your … commitment to ensuring that our elections are run with integrity,” Williams said.
Pam Anderson, the former Jefferson County clerk and the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said 54 of the state’s 64 county clerk offices sent representatives to the summer conference.
County clerks have a variety of responsibilities, from elections to motor vehicles to recording documents, such as marriage licenses and titles.
The titles of the conferences over the three-day workshop reflected that: “Creative Solutions for Long Lines,” “Election Integrity in the Current Political & Media Environment” and a “History of Paper & Demographics.”
Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell, the president-elect of the clerks association, said she and her staffers learned plenty at the seminars. “They were really well done,” she said.
Conference-goers took advantage of the location to hike and bike and gaze at the stunning scenery.
Among the conference speakers were Matt Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and David Becker, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research.
Both Becker and Williams addressed recent news stories about Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election.
“We now live in a world where foreign governments wage war on our country not with traditional weapons, but by attempting to undermine Americans’ faith in our democratic institutions,” said Becker, who also wrote a blog on the topic that appeared the day after his talk to the clerks.
He dismissed a recent Bloomberg story claiming “39 states election systems were hacked.”
“The evidence supports the idea that many states had their (registration) systems ‘scanned’ or ‘pinged’ during the past election season, perhaps by the Russian government or others,” Becker said. “But there’s a huge chasm between scanning or probing a system and actually getting inside.”
Williams told the media, including Colorado Public Radio, the same thing the day the Bloomberg article was published.
“If people feel their vote doesn’t count, they are less likely to participate in an election,” Williams told the Aspen Daily News.
Williams also talked about Dominion Voting Systems, the company that 54 of the state’s 64 counties will be using by the end of the year, and 24-hour ballot drop boxes that have turned out to be so popular with voters.
And an issue clerks need to be ready for: Voters last year approved a measure that now makes it easier for unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections. Rules concerning that measure will be discussed at a hearing at the Secretary of State’s office on July 11.
Williams, the former El Paso County clerk who became secretary of state in January 2015, noted he’s now held the post longer than three of the last four secretaries of state. Williams, who is running for re-election in 2018, joked that he’s not one of the “60,000” or so Coloradans who have filed to run for governor in next year’s open race.
The Colorado County Clerks Association also handed out awards to 2017 legislative leaders and to La Plata County’s elections manager, Erin Hutchins, winner of the Michelle Burton Excellence in Elections Service Award.
The clerks’ winter conference is scheduled for Jan. 17-19 in Colorado Springs.