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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.