Two Colorado counties receive election awards

Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds rack up another award, this one from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. (Photo by Alton Dillard)

Two Colorado counties — Denver and El Paso — recently received awards for some of the best practices in election administration nationwide.

The annual “Clearie” awards recognize outstanding innovations in election administration that can serve as examples for other officials and jurisdictions to emulate.

This year’s award categories celebrate excellence in election innovations, voting accessibility and recruiting, training and retaining election workers, according to the Election Assistance Commission’s website.

Denver County Clerk Deb Johnson received the award for “Outstanding Innovations in Election Administration” for the launch of eSign, the first-in-the-nation mobile petition signing application, which interfaces with a voter database and keeps a running tally of signatures.

El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman speaks to voters through an interpreter during an open house at the Independence Centerin 2016 to show options for voters with disabilities. (El Paso County Clerk’s office)

El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman  received the award for “Improving Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities” for its partnership with the Independence Center to host an open house for voters with disabilities to practice on accessible voting machines, provide etiquette training to over 200 election judges, and use a highly accessible center as a voter service and polling center.

“Once again, Colorado’s election officials are being recognized for their outstanding and innovative efforts when it comes to elections,” Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said. “I’m proud of them.”

Prior to the development of eSign, Denver candidates had to collect signatures on paper petitions, turn them into the Denver Elections Division and wait for them to be verified. Historically, 30-35 percent of those signatures were invalid, compared to just 1-3 percent of signatures collected using eSign.

“We are truly honored to receive the Clearie Award from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for our continued commitment to innovation,” said Amber McReynolds, director of elections for the City and County of Denver. “We continue to find new and creative ways to make elections processes more convenient for our customers and are grateful to the EAC for this recognition.”

More than 800 voters in 2016 showed up to The Independence Center’s highly accessible polling place to cast their ballots, many of whom had not been able to vote in the past due to the obstacles people with disabilities face when voting. The (Independence Center photo)

In 2016, the El Paso County Elections Department, led by Liz Olson, partnered with The Independence Center to identify specific challenges to voting accessibility for voters with disabilities, which include transportation to and from voting locations, and election judges not skilled in serving voters with disabilities.

The Independence Center is a nonprofit organization in southern Colorado that provides traditional and self-directed home health care, independent living, and advocacy services for people with disabilities, according to its website.

“Voting is a fundamental right, and my office is committed to working with our community partners to address the needs of our citizens in exercising that fundamental right,” Broerman said in a news release.

“The Independence Center is a bridge for many in the disabled community, and we are honored to work with them to ensure greater accessibility for voters in El Paso County.”