Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his staff got great reviews from those who attended the Colorado County Clerks Association winter conference, and the secretary was equally complimentary.
“I love working with the clerk and recorders,” he told conference-goers. “You’re not afraid to follow the law, and that’s true whether there’s a recall in Custer County or with someone who submits petitions.”
The three-day conference in Colorado Springs concluded last week, and the clerks will gather again in the summer. The conferences offer workshops on a variety of topics that clerks deal with, including vehicle title registration and recording documents.
County clerks run elections, but the secretary of state is the chief elections officer, and that’s where the SOS comes in to play at conferences. Secretary of State staffers participate in workshops on a variety of topics, including security, ballot access and changes to election laws.
Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner said the “wonderful people at the SOS office” are her staff’s “lifeline.”
Eagle County Clerk Regina O’Brien praised the SOS and her fellow clerks.
“At every conference, I glean tips, tricks and lessons learned that help me continually improve our processes. I love being able to share our practices as well in a effort to help others across the state,” she said. “In the current political climate, it’s inspiring and encouraging to see so many working towards the same shared goal — excellence!”
County support manager Dwight Shellman talked to clerks about the risk-limiting audit they recently completed — the first such audit on a statewide basis. A risk-limiting audit is a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is right and has a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome. National election experts and activists traveled to Colorado to watch the successful audit unfold.
“We’re going to talk about what we accomplished, what we learned and the path forward,” Shellman said, adding, “Basically we crushed this thing.”
The audit was especially important, Williams added, because of recent questions about election integrity and security.
“The public is asking whether they can trust the process,” he said. “We have an awesome answer for them.”
Another hot topic at the conference was the June 26 primary election.
“Guess what? The primary is going to be different because we haven’t had enough things we’ve changed in the last couple of years. We’ve done a new voting system. We’ve had a risk-limiting audit. So let’s throw in something new so you’re not bored this year,” Williams joked.
Voters last year approved a ballot measure that allows unaffiliated voters for the first time ever to participate in a primary election without declaring to be either a Republican or a Democrat.
Elections division staffer Ben Schler talked about what the office is doing to inform unaffiliated voters. They will be mailed both a Republican and a Democrat primary ballot but can only vote one ballot.
That’s a point the office will be stressing right up to the primary.
“We want to make sure that this new group of primary election voters understands the process,” Schler said. “Luckily we know who these folks are and we’ll be able to target them with the information they need.”
To top it off, the keynote lunch speaker was the Secretary of State’s own Steve Bouey, who oversees campaign finance. Bouey talked about his 30-month trip around the world starting in 2007. He liquidated his pension and his 401K and sold everything he owned — and discovered it was all worth it.
He mesmerized conference-goers with his photos of nearly unpassable roads, incredible scenery and AK-47s.
“Steve was phenomenal,” said Lincoln County Clerk Corinne Lengel.