Here voter, voter: Las Animas County elections is missing Midas’ touch

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with two of Las Animas County election judges, Karen Fabec and Julie Abeyta. (SOS photo)

Midas once prowled the election offices at the Las Animas County courthouse in Trinidad, greeting voters who arrived to drop off their ballots.

Midas, in the Las Animas County elections office.

Midas’ owner, election judge Karen Fabec, is back at the courthouse but without her 14-year-old Persian cat at her side. Midas died in in August.

Fabec could hardly talk about her beloved pet without choking up so Secretary of State Wayne Williams moved on, thanking her and fellow election judge Julie Abyeta for their service.

“We’re dependent on election judges,” he said, during his visit Friday with Las Animas County Clerk Peach Vigil.

These are tough times in Las Animas County, the largest county in the state at 4,749 square miles. Faced with financial woes,  county services have been from cut from five days a week to three. Residents aren’t happy that they can’t handle their business, including motor vehicle registrations and marriage licenses, on Thursdays and Fridays so the clerk staffers hear about it when they are open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Vigil said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Las Animas County Clerk Peach Vigil at the courthouse in Trinidad on Friday. (SOS photo)

Because of Tuesday’s election, the clerk’s elections operation has been open since Monday, when counties were required to open their voter service and polling centers, which allows residents to vote in person, register and such.

“I don’t have a choice. It’s the law,” Vigil said.

Las Animas County voters defeated a measure in 2014 to “de Bruce,” as it is known, which would allow the county to keep more of its property tax revenues. The next year, 59 percent of the residents voted against a sales tax increase, according to the Trinidad Chronicle-News. A mill-levy question failed last year.

Trinidad City Council Candidate Tony Mattorano talks to Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at his business, Tony’s Diner, while Las Animas county Clerk Peach Vigil listens. (SOS photo)

This year voters will again be asked whether to allow the county to de-Bruce, and to approve a sales tax increase. Vigil supports the measures and noted that the sales tax would also come from visitors from New Mexico, just across the county line, and other Interstate 25 travelers through Trinidad.

Also on the ballot are school issues and races for the Trinidad City Council. Williams met one of the council candidates, Anthony “Tony” Mattorana, when he and Vigil had breakfast at the candidate’s restaurant, Tony’s Diner.

Given Trinidad’s history, it’s no surprise that the menu included Mexican food and Italian meats.

After the visit, Fabec raved about Williams’ visit — and was thrilled that his office wanted pictures of the cat.

“I loved the secretary. He’s so cool. He’s one of those people you feel you can talk with,” she said. “He’s not all suited up.”

Williams also visited the clerk and recorders in Huerfano County and Custer County on Friday.