Colorado, the “Burger King of elections”

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks to Coloradans 50 and older about elections and other issues. He and Elena Nunez, the director of Common Cause, addressed an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class on Tuesday. (SOS photo)

Colorado is “kind of the Burger King of elections,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams told a class Tuesday during a talk with seniors learning about government.

Williams and Elena Nunez, executive director of Common Cause Colorado, spoke to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program through the University of Denver that provides adult learning for men and women age 50 and “better.”

Williams explained that Colorado is the only state that offers a mail-ballot system, early voting and polling-place locations two weeks before an election.

“So it’s kind of the Burger King of elections, right?” he said. “Having it your way, however you want to do it.”

The class, which was in its  fifth week of an eight-week term, earlier heard from former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, a staffer with the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, and Carol Hedges, the executive director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

“The class was just so surprised that the secretary of state was willing to talk to them and answer their questions,” said Nan Moorehead, a retired Denver Human Services employee who lobbied for the agency at the state Capitol and is on the curriculum committee for the Osher Institute. “They just loved it.”

Some of the topics Williams touched on include:

Eliza Pickrell Routt Award: Given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible students register to vote. Colorado law allows students to pre-register to vote when they turn 16; they receive ballots after they turn 18.

“If you’ve got a grandchild, a son, a nephew, a niece, who is in a school you can say, ‘Hey, have you heard of this program, is your school working toward it?’ There’s a link on our website and we would love to have everyone participating in the program. In every one of these schools there has been a kid who said, ‘I’m going to make it happen.’ ”

National Association of Secretaries of State: Williams was the first Coloradan to serve as the western region vice president for NASS, and now is secretary of the group.  “We do work together. We share ideas. In fact, we present ideas to each other and Colorado has won the Ideas Award twice in recent years because we are innovative here and our peers around the country recognize that.”

Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity: President Trump created the commission, which asked states for publicly available voter data. Colorado turned over the list in July along with a lengthy letter.  The request infuriated some, but Williams said it would be dangerous for a Colorado secretary of state to be able to pick and choose who gets that information.

“We get requests from groups all the time for voting lists. All the campaigns have them. This is public information in the state of Colorado. In terms of what happens after we give out the information, I don’t know. What I do know is that nothing the commission does can make a difference in the voter registration list in this state. They can make recommendations, they can say ‘Hey, there’s an issue,’ but states control the elections process under the U.S. Constitution.”

Election judges. When Williams asked class participants how many had worked as an election judge only a few hands went up.

“We need more. Be a judge, and see for yourself  how hard we work in Colorado to ensure that everybody who wants to is able to participate as long as they’re legally eligible to do so and how hard we work to ensure the integrity of this system.”