Saguache County Clerk Carla Gomez, who is retiring early after serving six years in office, sure is going out with a bang.
The night before Election Day, the Saguache post office was burglarized. The post office was then closed the next day, which could have prevented Gomez from collecting mail-in ballots. Secretary of State Wayne Williams was prepared to extend the 7 p.m. Nov. 7 deadline, but it wasn’t needed and the election concluded successfully.
Gomez said she is going to miss her co-workers and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a man she so admires she made him the star of her office Christmas card this year.
“He’s done so much for the county and we just have to acknowledge that,” the outgoing clerk said. “We appreciate him and how patient he has been with us.”
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 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.”
Here is what some of the SOS staffers what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. Family and friends topped the list, but here are some of the more creative responses-
• “I’m thankful for my job, I JUST LOVE IT!! It allows me to work with a lot of veterans as well as community members. Cannot be thankful enough to the veterans for serving our country.” Darleen Herrera, charitable gaming investigator.
• “I am thankful for the opportunity to go visit family and to have family visit us. I am also thankful that the risk-limiting audit has proceeded in a fashion that neither we nor the clerks have to work on Thanksgiving.” Wayne Williams, secretary of state.
• “Just living! My 5-year-old granddaughter has been cancer-free for a year!” Catherine Hill, elections administrative assistant.
• “I am thankful to be able to work in an office that has so many kind and generous people, and which is located in a state that makes every day a good and different day.” Chris Johnson, executive administrative assistant.
• “I’m thankful for the passage of time…without which our restrooms would have never seen completion…without which we would be forever doomed to endure multiple daily journeys to the second floor….LOL, I think I am probably speaking for a LOT of people in my thankfulness!” Myra Rooney, campaign finance specialist.
• “I’m thankful that my parents left South Florida to start their family in Colorado, so I had the Rocky Mountains as my playground and not the Everglades.” Chris Cash, charities program manager.
• “I am thankful for my boss, Wayne.” Suzanne Staiert, deputy secretary of state.
Lynn Bartels’ response might be my favorite of all –
• “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it involves food but no gift-buying. Last year, I posted on the SOS blog a column I wrote about Thanksgiving in 1991 when I was working as a columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune.
I have plenty to be thankful for but this year I’m especially grateful for Dwight Shellman, the Secretary of State’s county support manager.
Dwight is our chain-smoking, coffee-swilling, loveable attention-to-detail guy who has been such an integral part of the risk-limiting audit our office and Colorado’s county clerks just conducted to show that the election results were accurate.
The post-election audit attracted election folks from across the country, which only added to Dwight’s 24-hour state of stress. Another SOS staffer, Ben Schler, once joked that if Dwight managed a Pizza Hut he would be outside by the dumpster on Super Bowl Sunday, smoking and muttering, “I just know we’re going to run out of dough. I just know we’re going to run out of dough.”
Even if we hadn’t done a risk-limiting audit this year, I would still be just as grateful for Dwight. As the former elections director for Pitkin County, he knows what it takes to run an election – hence his devotion to our county clerks and their staffs.
Oh, and he has a wicked sense of humor, something to be thankful for in any person.
Tired of receiving all those election calls even after you’ve voted? The “I Already Voted” initiative in Aurora is set to change that.
Founder Jon Haubert started the initiative for the benefit of both citizens and candidates to “reduce the number of unnecessary political advertisements at election time,” according to the “I Already Voted” website. It is designed to save campaigns from spending money on a voter who has already voted and saves the voter from receiving an overload of political ads.
Once you have voted, you can head over to the IAV website and submit your name, address, and date of birth. I Already Voted will then notify candidates, campaigns and media to stop targeting those voters. Haubert assures users that the information they submit will be safe.
“It’s important to note that we redact birthdates and email addresses when sharing voter information with campaigns,” Haubert mentioned. “We don’t want the IAV Initiative to foster identity theft or become a tool to spam voters, either.”
The initiative is currently being run and tested in Aurora for the coordinated election on Nov. 7. Haubert says he chose Aurora because “it’s the third largest city in Colorado, is demographically diverse, and has a municipal election with 20 candidates running for five council seats,” Denver 7 reported.
Haubert says that the initiative has been successful thus far. Users have found the website easy to use and are clear on what IAV is trying to accomplish.
“More than ninety-five percent of the voters utilizing the system are in Aurora, which is a tremendous success because that is where our test is focused,” Haubert said. “Outliers were expected, but we’ve had far less than anticipated. ”
If IAV is successful in Aurora’s election this year, backers are looking at expanding their efforts statewide in 2018.
If you live in Aurora, have already voted and want to try out the system, sign up here. Here’s what the local paper, the Aurora Sentinel, said about the effort.
Mail ballots for the 2017 coordinated election were sent out on Oct. 16. Ballots must be received by Nov. 7. To update your registration, view your sample ballot, check your mail ballot status, or find an in person voting location or ballot drop off location, please visit www.govotecolorado.com.