CLASS ACT: learning provided by the Colorado County Clerks Association

Two Colorado Secretary of State staffers, Trevor Timmons, the chief information officer, and Rich Schliep, the chief security officer, talk with Prowers County Clerk Jana Coen about security breaches during the Colorado County Clerks Association conference in Snowmass Village last week. (SOS photo)

Think of it as a kind of summer school for county clerks and their staffs.

A seminar about a program that allows survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to purchase homes and file those records with county clerks without revealing their location.

Workshops on the Russians and election security.

And a class on election costs and reimbursements.

That’s some of what the Colorado County Clerks Association summer conference offered to attendees at the Westin in Snowmass Village last week.

“I learned a lot,” said Otero County Clerk and Recorder Sharon Sisnroy.

The county will be getting a new system for Motor Vehicle records and will handle property records differently, in addition to needing to educate unaffiliated voters who will automatically receive ballots in the mail for next year’s primary election.

“There’s a lot going on next year so I guess I will be going out with a bang,” said Sisnroy, who has worked at the clerk’s office for 42 years and won’t seek re-election in 2018.

Here’s a look at some of the workshops:

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill taught a workshop about educating the public, based on a program from her elections department. (SOS photo)

Educating Your Public”

The conference host, Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill, presented her office’s election outreach strategy.

It starts with knowing your audience and stakeholders, including the voting community, county boards, media, advisory, community groups  and election judges, Vos Caudill said. Then design the content or story that should be told, starting with voter registration up to Election Day.

Next up, determine the communication tools to get out the message, including newspaper ads, radio, video production and weekly columns and newsletters.

In addition, present that message to various audiences, from county commissioners to city council members, Rotary clubs, neighborhood caucuses.

“Be creative in one’s message,” she said.

“Privacy vs. Public Access, Stakeholders Perspectives”

The workshop focused on the state’s Address Confidentiality Program, which began in the Secretary of State’s Office and now is part of the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration.

Among those participating in a panel on “Privacy vs. Public Access” were, from left to right , Linda Vose, SKLD Title Services; Diane Evans, vice president of Land Title Guarantee Co.; Jack Wylie and Jackie Cash with the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration; and state Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, who carried legislation in 2015 aimed at keep some information provided to government confidential to protect crime victims. (SOS photo)

Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, carried legislation in 2015 looking at ways to make confidential information available to government but keep secret the addresses of crime victims. As clerks file documents related to home purchases, the discussion centered how to keep crime victims’ information confidential but still make information available for mortgage and title companies and others to access.

VSPC Costs/SOS reimbursement

Jennifer Morrell, the elections director for the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder, focused on election costs and reimbursements during a workshop at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference in Snowmass Village June 20. (SOS photo)

VSPC stands for Voter Service Polling Centers — where Coloradans can register to vote or update their registrations, vote in person before or on Election Day, drop off or obtain mail ballots, use accessible voting devices, and such. They’re costly to maintain for the counties, especially in the first few days they are open and are literal ghost towns. 

Lawmakers have killed efforts to scale back the initial phase of early voting and concentrate resources when it is closer to the election.

“I opened my class by discussing how benchmarks work and gave the example of Southwest Airlines improving their turnaround time by looking at benchmarks both within the airline industry as well as observing the process and times of NASCAR pit crews,” Morrell said, of her presentation.

“We reviewed the proposed reimbursement form line by line and took feedback. The biggest discussion centered on the idea of depreciating the costs of voting equipment and whether or not those costs should be passed along to coordinating entities.”

“Should We Be Afraid of the Russians? A 2016 Election Case Study.”

The Secretary of State’s chief information security officer, Rich Schliep, Denver’s chief information security officer Stephen Coury, and Denver’s information security manager James Stoner examined cyber security — the hottest topic of the 2016 election and an issue that still pops up almost weekly.

James Stoner and Stephen Coury with Denver’s security information, and Rich Schliep, who handles those duties for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office at the start of a workshop they presented at the Colorado County Clerks Association summer conference last week in Snowmass Village. (Denver Elections)

Schliep said the goal of the office is to “work hard and smart when it comes to our elections.”

“Voting guarantees all of our other rights. We want to continue to uphold the integrity of our elections and ensure United States citizens have confidence in our elections process,” he said.

He also said establishing communications channels are crucial to the success of an election and preventing cybersecurity attacks.

“Election administration is about mitigating risk,” said Amber McReynolds, Denver’s election director. “Security is critical and serious and as election officials we must partner with the best, whether that is inside the jurisdiction, or outside the organization.”

Schliep and Trevor Timmons, the chief information officer for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, also talked to the clerks about security plans.

“We are always improving technologies such as secure file transfer systems and improved zero day malware detection tools,” Schliep said.