Secretary Williams praises election judges during visit to Gunnison County

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks with Gunnison County election judges Monday in Gunnison. (SOS Photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams thanked the election judges he met with Monday at the Gunnison County clerk’s office, telling them they are key to the democratic process.

“The only way we make this work is with judges like you,” he told them.  “I appreciate your doing this.”

All hands went up when the secretary asked how many had worked as election judges before. He then asked how long they had worked as an election judge.

“Not that long,” said Judy Sunderlin, who made Williams smile when she added “15 years.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion. (SOS photo)

Ellen Harriman, with 40 years under her belt, had seen a lot of changes in elections over the years.  She’s fond of saying the elections office is the “warmest and most convenient place” she’s ever worked as a judge.

Clearly in Gunnison County being warm is an issue. The average low temperature in November, when general elections are held, is 11 degrees and some of those old polling places were drafty. Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion, a third -generation resident, said her mother remembers when the area got so much snow old-timers built second-story outhouses. Remember all the snow last year in Crested Butte?  (But I’m sure the outhouses are long gone.)

Simillion started Monday  by arriving in Crested Butte by 6:30 a.m. to help open a voting service and polling center. Then she returned to the main office in Gunnison, where she got a call from the Secretary of State’s office because someone had complained her operation wasn’t sharing a list of Crested Butte voters. Never even had a request, was her response.

Will Shoemaker, editor of the Gunnison Times, talks with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Monday. (SOS photo)

There are several issues on the ballot in Gunnison County, but no countywide measure so not all voters are getting a ballot.  The clerk’s office has issued 3,168 ballots so far.

Crested Butte residents are picking a mayor, town council members and deciding on some fire protection issues. In addition they’ll decide whether to increase the excise tax on vacation rentals to up to 5 percent to fund affordable housing programs. A sliver of voters live in the Montrose School District RE-1J, which is holding a school board election. And some voters live in a multi-county fire district that has an issue on the ballot.

“I think school board races and local races are just as important as races for president,” Williams said. “Voters should really care about what happens this Tuesday.”