Secretary of State’s office talks to voters

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks to the Jefferson County Republican Party Wednesday night about two ballot measures what allow participation by unaffiliated voters and what that means for elections. (SOS photo)

By Lizzie Stephani

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office believes in educating voters on election issues, which is why the top folks agreed to speak to various groups this month.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Wednesday addressed the Jefferson County Republican Party, which had questions about two successful ballot measures that change the role of unaffiliated voters in primary elections.

“Colorado election law has changed and we want to make sure that our citizens understand the impact,” he said.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert addressed voter privacy surrounding the President Tump’s request for voter data when she spoke to the Broomfield Democrats earlier this month and again to the League of Women Voters during a recent appearance in Lakewood.

“We’re hoping that by educating people and talking about it, we can get people to understand what happened and not be concerned that their information is public,” Staiert said.

Other questions posed at the League of Women Voters event concerned provisional ballots at the precinct level and due process for unaffiliated voters in primary elections.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert talks to the League of Women Voters Jeffco on Aug. 24 about the White House request for voter information. (Photo by Lizzie Stephani)

Event-goers at the Jeffco event peppered Williams with questions about Proposition 107, which creates a presidential primary and allows unaffiliated voters to participate, and Proposition 108, which allows unaffiliated voters to cast either or a Democratic or Republican ballot but without affiliating with either party.

Williams asked the legislature to pick up the cost of the presidential primary — the next one is in four years — but he said counties must bear the additional costs of sending ballots to unaffiliated voters in the June 2018 primary.

Williams also addressed the provision in Prop 108 that allows the state Democratic or Republican parties to cancel the primary if 75 percent of the party’s state central committee votes to do so, which would prevent unaffiliated voters from helping select the nominee for the general election. The nominees would be selected during the caucus process.

The secretary pointed out the outcry last year when the Colorado Republican Party canceled a nonbinding presidential preference poll.

He also talked about a failed legal challenge to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which he said would have eliminated the ability for voters to decide tax issues.

Among those present at the GOP HQ off of Denver West Parkway were Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen, Senate candidate Christine Jensen and Dick Wadhams, former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

Member of the League of Women Voters Jeffco listen as Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiet talks to them at their meeting in Lakewood on Aug. 24. (Photo by Lizzie Stephani)

At the Broomfield event, most of the questions for Staiert involved the request from President Trump’s commission in late June  for states to provide publicly available voter information, setting off an uproar across the country but particularly in Colorado. Some 5,500 Coloradans withdrew their registration rather than have it be handed over to the commission.

Despite the wave of heightened concern with the release of voter information, Staiert explained the information in the voter registration file is a public record and already widely available, echoing a statement made by Secretary Williams on the matter.

In fact, Staiert told the groups, information contained in the voter registration file has already been distributed more than 200 times this year to various groups. Information that is not shared includes full dates of birth, entire Social Security numbers and signatures.

“We want to be able to have verifiable elections, and that doesn’t just mean that the government can verify it, it means that the people can verify it,” she added.

The information contained in the public voter file includes a person’s name, year and month of birth, address, party affiliation and which elections they participated in. It does not include how a person voted because no one knows — not the secretary of state, county clerk or election judge.

Staiert distinguished between the public voter data file and each citizen’s right by the Colorado constitution to a secret ballot.

“All the counties and the secretary’s office take great pains to make sure that all votes are disassociated from the envelopes they come in,” she said. “Nobody has a right to know how you voted.”

Lizzie Stephani is an intern in the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Today is her last day.