Secretary Williams: the eastern plains and EPIC

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with members of the Phillip County clerk’s office: elections deputy Mary Robert, accounts payable clerk Debbie Bennet, Clerk and Recorder Beth Zilla, and clerk deputy Val Danielson. (SOS photo)
Morgan County Clerk Susan Bailey and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in front of a quilt featuring communities in the county. (SOS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams headed to the eastern plains this week to visit county clerks in Morgan and Phillip counties where he talked about the upcoming election, the one that just ended and a table top election security exercise that is generating national attention.

He met with Morgan County Clerk Susan Bailey in Fort Morgan Thursday and Phillips County Clerk Beth Zilla in Holyoke Friday.

“Thank you for stopping by, it’s always great to see you!” Bailey wrote on her Facebook page afterward. “Your support of our election process is so appreciated.”

“He’s such a down-to-earth guy,” Zilla said.

Bailey will see Williams again on Sunday when they head to Salida for the Colorado County Clerks Association’s summer conference. Zilla is unable to attend.

Read moreSecretary Williams: the eastern plains and EPIC

Bruce Benson, one of Colorado’s best

Bruce Benson smiles as he talks to reporters after he was voted to be president of the University of Colorado by the CU Board of Regents Feb. 20, 2008. (Rocky Mountain News/Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library)

University of Colorado President Bruce Benson’s announcement last week that he was retiring in a year brought much deserved accolades about his contributions to education, but the reality is Benson’s investment in Colorado straddles a variety of issues. We are all the better for it.

I covered the legislature in 2005 when deep, deep cuts still hadn’t solved the budget crisis. There were very real behind-the-scene discussions about what was next. Community colleges and state parks were on the list, even though closing them would trigger economic disasters in those regions.

Bruce, an oilman and business executive, and two other high-profile Republicans, Gov. Bill Owens and then CU President Hank Brown, put their reputations on the line to push for the passages of Referendums C and D. The right dissed the tax measures but the trio held firm.

“This isn’t about politics; this is about good fiscally conservative policies,” Benson told the Pueblo Chieftain.

Read moreBruce Benson, one of Colorado’s best

The best to you, Henry Sobanet

“Nobody has done more for Colorado than Henry Sobanet. There should be streets, buildings, and airports named after him. Henry stands as the antithesis of everything politics has sadly become. Though he stood at the helm of our budget, he cared not for money, but for making Colorado a better place.”

Budget director Henry Sobanet, center, and the two governors he worked for, Democrat John Hickenlooper on the left and Republican Bill Owens on the right, in 2015. Sobanet’s last day at the Capitol is today. (Sobanet picture)

The year was 2005 and I was assigned to cover the complicated ballot measures Ref C & D, dealing with taxes and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

I called the governor’s budget director, Henry Sobanet, all hours of the day and night. “Is this correct? What if that happens? Does this mean this?”

These days I’m answering phone calls from reporters.

At closing time recently I posted a Tweet about the ballot rejection rates from unaffiliated voters in two counties. Reporters immediately asked if I had more numbers. “I don’t,” I said,  “but I can call around to the clerks and get some.”

“You would do that on a Friday afternoon?” Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio asked.

Yes, because that’s my job.

Sobanet always answered his cell phone. I once had a a fairly lengthy budget conversation with him one Friday night before he finally admitted he was at a party and talking to me from inside someone’s bedroom.

Today is Sobanet’s last day at the state Capitol after serving the state and two governors for 20 years.

Read moreThe best to you, Henry Sobanet

All eyes on U — and Montrose County

The various U’s decorated by the Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder’s office as part of the UChooseCO campaign. Top left, Andrea Martinez, top right, Jerri Frizzell, bottom left, Kelly Codner, bottom right, various U’s.(Kim Percell photos)

Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell and her staff took it upon themselves to decorate some “U’s” in a way that represented Montezuma County and the changes for unaffiliated voters for the primary election.

“This was a great opportunity for all of us to do something FUN!”  Percell said. “I wanted them to display them at their desk so customers would ask about all of the decorated U’s giving the clerk the opportunity to explain the UChoose campaign. The names of those who participated were thrown into a hat and they won a $20 gift card.”

Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell holds her U, which is covered in eyes and questions. (Kim Percell photo)

Percell’s U is decorated with sets of different sized eyes that are all asking if they get to choose.

“My thought with the U was that we all had the blessing to be able to make a choice,” Percell said. “The entire primary election process is up to each of us to decide what candidate we want on our ballots.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams handed out Wooden U’s as part of the UChooseCO campaign to help inform unaffiliated voters that for the first time they could participate in Colorado’s primary election. Percell’s staff went and got their own U’s to decorate.

The campaign also reminded unaffiliated voters who got both the Republican and Democratic ballot in the mail to only vote one. If they voted both, neither counted. Clerks continue to process ballots, although the election ended at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The UChooseCO campaign has a web pageFacebook page, a Twitter account and its own hashtag, #UChooseCO. Check out more decorated U’s on Facebook and Twitter and this blog.

Secretary Williams makes his way to Weld County

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes in Greeley Monday. (SOS photo)

Weld County Clerk Carly Koppes was excited to show Secretary Williams the county’s new elections office ballots processing center, which is in an old bank building, complete with a vault where the ballots will be stored.

Koppes says she is welcoming name suggestions for the processing center since “elections office ballots processing center” is a mouthful. Her favorite suggestion so far is the “Koppes Center.”

She thanked Williams for his visit to Greeley and praised the SOS staff.

“You guys are rock stars,” she told him. “You do a good job supporting us.”

This year is the first time Colorado will conduct a primary election where unaffiliated voters can automatically participate.

The door to the vault where Weld County’s ballots will be stored. (Weld County clerk photo)

Williams launched the UChoose campaign earlier this year to inform unaffiliated voters about the primary and emphasize that they can’t vote both the Democratic and Republican ballots they will receive. They have to pick just one or neither ballot will count.

The campaign also handed out wooden U’s to decorate. Weld county’s U is decked out in images of the county, which is located on the Wyoming border and is known for its agriculture.  There are also images of Uncle Sam encouraging “U” to vote.

Koppes says that they have received a few questions on why unaffiliated voters received two ballots. Republicans are the largest voting block of active voters in Weld County with 61,880 voters, but the unaffiliated are close behind with 61,669 voters. Democrats trail with 37,164 active voters, according to the latest registration data from the SOS.

“We are keeping track of the questions we receive,” she said. “That way we will be ready for 2020. You know, us elections geeks, always thinking ahead.”