NALEO chief asks Secretary Williams’ help in “saving the census”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right, again commits to encouraging Coloradans to participate in the 2020 census. He met this week with Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, and Gillian Winbourn and Rosemary Rodriguez of “Together We Count.” (SOS photo)

The head of a national Latino organization visited with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams this week to talk about the importance of an accurate count for the 2020 census.

Arturo Vargas, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, enlisted Williams’ help to make sure Colorado residents are counted.  Williams explained the governor’s office handles the census, but that he would do everything he could so that Colorado gets its “fair share of everything from highway dollars, to housing, to community development block grants, to everything else that is out there.”

As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, America each decade counts its population. Vargas and Williams agreed that the message to Coloradans to participate is critical

“If you tell me it’s my civic duty,” Williams said, “it’s not as compelling as saying that this will help fix that road in front of your house or this will help a clinic or help provide funding for this various issue and tying it into something they care about.”

The next census will occur in 2020.

Vargas was accompanied by Rosemary Rodriguez and Gillian Winbourn of Together We Count, a group they formed that plans to utilize grassroots, businesses and civic and elected leaders to promote a complete population count in Colorado.  Rodriguez and Vargas are concerned that immigrants might be too frightened in the current political climate to make their voices heard during the census.

“I describe it as a train wreck that has occurred and is coming down the rails,” Vargas said. “We’re on track for a disastrous undercount. That’s my mantra now. So how do we save the census?”

Rodriguez, a well-known political figure in Colorado, once served on the board of NALEO. She earlier approached Williams and got his commitment to work to help promote the census. He said he preached the importance of the census while serving on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in Philadelpia in July. (SOS photo)

At that meeting, Rodriguez pointed to Williams’ reputation as secretary of state since the Republican took office in 2015.

“I appreciate that a lot of your positions have been very bipartisan,” she told him.

Vargas echoed that sentiment, saying he spoke with Rhode Island’s secretary of state, Democrat Nellie Gorbea, who serves on the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ board of directors.

“She said you’ve been super helpful to her on technical administrative stuff,” Vargas said.

Colorado in 2017 became the first state to conduct a statewide risk limiting audit, designed to election results match with voters intended. Rhode Island is working on implementing one.