International professionals from four continents visited with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams Tuesday where they learned about the state’s nationally lauded election system. The participants hail from countries including Chile, Afghanistan, and South Sudan and are leaders in their fields of politics, business, and journalism.
“Coloradans vote at some of the highest rates in America because we make the process easy and fair, empower citizens to vote on taxes and other matters though initiatives and referenda, and instill confidence in the voters,” Williams said. “They know that their vote matters and that it will be counted.”
The participants, who are with the International Visitor Leadership Program, visited Washington D.C. and Kansas City, Mo., before arriving in Denver. The IVLP is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program and has sought to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations since its launch in 1940.
After two failed attempts, the women’s suffrage movement won voting rights for women by a state referendum in 1893. The amendment was drafted by J. Warner Mills, a Denver lawyer, and sponsored by state Rep. J.T. Heath of Montrose County. “The opposition saloonkeepers and brewers, who feared women voters would crack down on liquor, were not taking the suffrage campaign seriously and mounted little opposition,” according to an Internet article on the vote.
Colorado became the second state to enfranchise women behind Wyoming, paving the way for the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.
One of the leaders in the suffrage movement was Eliza Pickrell Routt, the wife of Colorado’s first governor, John Routt.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has honored the former first lady and her contributions to women’s suffrage by naming an award after her. It goes to high schools where 85 percent or more of the senior class has registered to vote.
“When women got the right to, she was the first one to register,” he said.
The panel discussed the 2016 election and what Masterson described as a “real and concentrated effort to undermine confidence.” Williams pointed out that many Americans are still troubled by the cyber attacks and dissemination of disinformation on social media in the last national election.
Both Masterson and Hicks said their roles are to support the states to prevent and respond to security threats, as well as encourage wider participation help to ensure a safe election.
The working relationship between Homeland Security and the National Association of Secretary of States, or NASS, has improved. Williams, who serves on the NASS board, said in 2016 the federal agency did not know who to tell about election security threats. Now, both the states and the federal government have made a concerted effort to work together.
“The difference between then and now is the difference between night and day,” he said.
Masterson, a former EAC member, agreed, noting “the biggest change and improvement is the amount of information being shared… We are just getting regular information from states and locals. That is critical to understanding the threat, sharing information, and managing risks.”
New Mexico and Colorado both utilize risk limiting audits to ensure that voter confidence remains high in the tabulation of the election and monitor social media to respond to misinformation.
“If you believe that your vote will get counted,” Williams said, “you’re more likely to vote.”
Secretary of State Wayne Williams today joined other election officials and talked about Colorado’s registration statistics, its risk-limiting audits, and voter confidence. He opened by wishing the room a “Happy Rocktober,” a shout-out the Rockies for their historic win against the Chicago Cubs last night.
“There are really two goals in an elections process,” Williams said. “One is to run it fairly and accurately, and the other, and just as important in many ways, is for the people to recognize that it has been done fairly and accurately.”
He was joined by West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, Sherry Poland, director of the Hamilton County, Ohio, board of elections, Paul Lux, supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County, Fla., and the panel moderator, EAC Vice Chair Christy McCormick.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams this week visited yet another county, checking in with Baca County Clerk Sharon Dubois on the very southern and eastern edge of the state.
They discussed efforts for the Nov. 6 general election, including 24/7 ballot drop boxes and Dominion elections equipment. During the visit Monday, Dubois said the office had already gotten back one military and overseas ballot. The deadline for sending them out was two days prior, on Sept. 22.
Williams toured the courthouse in Springfield and spent time with Baca County Commissioners Glen R. “Spike” Ausmus and Rick Butler. Ausums and Williams are old friends, having served as county commissioners together for Baca and El Paso counties respectively a number of years ago. They discussed the how to best serve the people of Colorado.
“Most voters want services, they don’t care about what party you’re in, but do you do your job? They care about how long they wait, are the potholes patched? Is it an easy process to vote?” Williams said.