Secretary Williams talks about primary elections, voter fraud and more

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams mingles with members of the League of Women Voters Denver before speaking to the group Monday night. (SOS photo)

Most Colorado counties are holding elections this November, but to Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ dismay the turnout won’t be anything like last year’s presidential election, when 2.9 million Coloradans participated.

“Off-year elections” usually involve school board races and tax issues for local districts. Some cities are holding council elections.

“These are issues that can directly affect your property values,” Williams said. “Given how much is at stake, I think it’s absurd that people aren’t going to vote in the upcoming election.”

Williams also disputed claims of massive voter fraud.

“I’ve seen no evidence of millions of people voting illegally,” he told the League of Women Voters. “We have found instances of people voting in Colorado and other states at the same time, and we are investigating that.”

It was the secretary’s third talk on election issues in 10 days.

Former Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, at the League of Women Voters forum in Denver. (SOS photo)

Williams spoke to Club 20 in Grand Junction on Sept. 9, and the Cherry Creek Republican Women on Sept. 12. Much of his focus has been on election integrity and the impacts of two successful ballot measures that change how unaffiliated voters will participate in primary elections.

He and Deputy Suzanne Staiert held similar discussions with groups in August.

At the Club 20 meeting, Williams said Colorado does plenty to encourage participation, from making it easy to register online to providing grants to counties to add 24-hour ballot drop boxes.

The state has 3.8 million registered voters, the highest percentage in the country, and the 74.5 percent turnout in the 2016 presidential election was the fourth highest.

“Those are impressive numbers,” he said.

Williams also discussed Proposition 107, which allows unaffiliated voters to participate in presidential primary elections without affiliating with either the Republican or Democratic party, and Proposition 108, which will grant unaffiliated voters the same privilege in primary elections.

Sen. Don Coram, former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher and Secretary of State Wayne Williams at Club 20 on Sept. 9. (SOS photo)

“I promised Club 20 I would get funding for the cost of holding presidential primaries, and that happened,” Williams said. “The state is going to pay 100 percent of reasonable costs for the primary, so counties – some of which are financially strapped – are not going to have to pay for a presidential primary.”

Williams also said unaffiliated voters in next year’s primary election will receive both a Democratic and a Republican ballot, unless they ask for a particular party’s ballot. But the voter can mark a ballot for only one party’s primary. If a person votes for the Republican candidate for governor and the Democratic candidate for attorney general, for example, both ballots will be tossed.

“If any of you have ever been an election judge you know that everyone follows all the rules all the time,” Williams said, prompting laughter from the Club 20 crowd. “We plan to engage in a public-education campaign because we know not everybody is going to read all the rules.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks election issues with the Cherry Creek Republican Women on Sept. 12. (SOS photo)

Every vote matters, as Williams can attest to. As the El Paso County clerk and recorder, Williams oversaw two school board elections decided by a single vote.

“Does a single vote matter? Absolutely,” he told the Cherry Creek Republican Women.

“And the other problem is that if someone thinks there’s cheating, they are less likely to cast their ballot to start with because they feel like it may not count,” he said. “So we work very hard in Colorado to ensure that our processes are good, that everybody has the opportunity to participate in the process, and that is hard to cheat and if we catch you, we will prosecute you.”