Secretary Williams heads south and west for latest clerks’ visit

R O A D   T R I P

Secretary Wayne Williams stands on a county road leading into San Luis in Costilla County. Late Monday he wrapped up a road tour that included county clerk visits, meetings with newspaper editors and a League of Women Voters forum in Durango. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams admired the scenery and marveled at the warm weather during his visits with five county clerks who share a border with New Mexico to see how the southern Colorado officials fared in the Nov. 7 election.

For the most part, pretty dang good considering  the clerks for the first time used new equipment from Dominion Voting Systems, and they successfully completed the first ever post-election risk-limiting audit.

Williams met with Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell in Cortez, La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker in Durango,  Archuleta County Clerk June Madrid in Pagosa Springs, Conejos County Clerk Lawrence Gallegos in Conejos and Costilla County Clerk Karen Garcia in San Luis.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited five counties on the New Mexico border on his last clerks’ visit.

In every county, he asked the clerks and their staffs, “Are you getting what you need from our office?”

And the answer always made Williams smile.

Williams visited all 64 clerks’ offices during his first two years in office, and is on his second round of visits.

“I love visiting with Colorado’s county clerks and other concerned citizens about elections,” the secretary said after the trip.

“I am particularly gratified by the reception we received, whether at the League of Women Voters forum in Durango or at remote county clerk’s office. So often people in southwestern Colorado feel isolated from the state. Their TV stations come out of New Mexico, and they feel like state officials only show up when a river changes color.”

Here’s a look at each county visit:

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Secretary Williams talks dollars and sense to JBC

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks with lawmakers and members of the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday before a hearing on the department’s budget. Left to right: Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction; Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley; Secretary Williams; Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; and JBC Chairwoman Millie Hamner, D-Dillon. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams highlighted the office’s achievements and challenges when he presented his budget requests to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday.

“We work very hard to make sure we provide the services that Colorado expects and deserves and our paying for with their fees,” he said. “I’m proud that we are able to do that with business fees that are among the lowest in the nation.

Secretary Wayne Williams, the SOS’ budget director, Brad Lang, and Rep. Susan Beckman, R-Littleton, at Tuesday’s Joint Budget Committee hearing. (SOS photo)

“As the state grows, as our processes change, we need to keep pace with that. We need not to be caught napping and waiting and our budget anticipates that.”

He noted the office is working on an information campaign to educate voters about Colorado’s first open primary next June, when unaffiliated voters will receive a ballot and must decide whether to vote the Democratic or Republican ticket.

Voters last year approved that measure with the passage of Proposition 108 and Williams has been on a speaking tour, explaining it to Colorado voters. He will address the League of Women Voters in Durango on Saturday.

He told the JBC that Colorado has just completed the first ever in the nation risk limiting audit, which is an audit of the state’s elections based on mathematical algorithms.

“That provides us with a statistically significant probability that the state’s elections systems correctly tabulated Coloradans ballots,” Williams said.

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Election 2017: Close counts inspires recounts

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Adams County Clerk Stan Martin can you tell you that every vote matters. (SOS photo)

Longtime election officials in Adams County can’t remember the last time a contest was so close it required a mandatory recount, so there’s more than just a little surprise that the county must recheck the outcome in five — yes, five– races.

And making the recounts even more unusual is each race is shared with at least one other county and two of those races are tied, said Adams County Clerk Stan Martin.  The recounts in Adams County begin today.

In all, 14 races statewide in the Nov. 7 coordinated election are subject to a mandatory recount and of those six were tied after local canvass boards certified results, underscoring the message Secretary of State Wayne Williams delivers when talking to Coloradans: Every vote counts. Williams was the El Paso County clerk and recorder when two school board races were decided by a single vote, and a municipal tax question failed because it was tied.

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A roll of the dice and off goes Colorado to audit elections in a new way

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams explains what’s next after multi-colored 10-sided dice were used Friday to establish a “seed” to randomly select ballots for each county to audit. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)

A process to audit Colorado’s elections in a different manner drew national attention Friday when participants at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office plucked names from Rockies and Broncos baseball caps to see who would roll 20 colored 10-sided dice. The numbers were used to come up with a “seed” to randomly select ballots from the Nov. 7 election for the counties to audit.

From left, U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairman  Matt Masterson, Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane and Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall wait for dice to be rolled, the first step in randomly selecting ballots for each county to audit during the RLA. (SOS photo)

The light-hearted ceremony kicked off work that began in 2009 when the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation requiring every county after every election to create a risk-limiting audit, a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is right and has a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome.

“It was an incredibly successful first effort,” said the Secretary of State’s Dwight Shellman, the county support manager.  “I’m really proud of our team and of all the county clerks. We are already in the process of working with the clerks and interested stakeholders to collect lessons learned to make the process even better in the future.”

The Secretary of State’s office will release a report Monday on the first steps of the audit.

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Voting and vocation at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School

“I think voting rights is about human rights.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sits with seniors at Arrupe Jesuit High School Monday morning before handing out an award to the school for its effort in registering eligible students to vote. (SOS photo)

In a ceremony filled with prayers and promise, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Monday recognized Arrupe Jesuit High School for its efforts in getting students registered to vote.

The north Denver Catholic school serves the economically disadvantaged and one of its goals to empower graduates to continue their education and return to their communities as leaders. The 420-member student body is 93 percent Hispanic and 77 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, students at Arrupe Jesuit High School who encouraged their classmates to register to vote. (SOS photo)

During a senior assembly, Williams singled out two students, Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, for their efforts in working with the group Inspire Colorado to get their classmates inspired to register to vote.

Simpson and Tapia’s efforts led to the school receiving the Secretary of State’s Eliza Pickrell Routt award, which is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

“You’re going to graduate from high school soon. You’re going to be part of the community, and what happens in this community is up to you,” Williams said. “That’s the great thing about the democratic republic in which we live. There is no ‘the man” who makes the decisions for us. We get to make those decisions.”

Also addressing the seniors was state Rep. Dan Pabon, who represents the neighborhood, and Ryan Drysdale with Inspire Colorado.

“Our faith tells us we are working for the least amongst us,”  Pabon said. “I think voting rights is about human rights. ‘Democracy’ can be a controversial word in the world. There are some people who don’t want to have the people control their government because, God forbid, they might actually do something that helps the people.”

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