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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Here voter, voter: Las Animas County elections is missing Midas’ touch

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with two of Las Animas County election judges, Karen Fabec and Julie Abeyta. (SOS photo)

Midas once prowled the election offices at the Las Animas County courthouse in Trinidad, greeting voters who arrived to drop off their ballots.

Midas, in the Las Animas County elections office.

Midas’ owner, election judge Karen Fabec, is back at the courthouse but without her 14-year-old Persian cat at her side. Midas died in in August.

Fabec could hardly talk about her beloved pet without choking up so Secretary of State Wayne Williams moved on, thanking her and fellow election judge Julie Abyeta for their service.

“We’re dependent on election judges,” he said, during his visit Friday with Las Animas County Clerk Peach Vigil.

These are tough times in Las Animas County, the largest county in the state at 4,749 square miles. Faced with financial woes,  county services have been from cut from five days a week to three. Residents aren’t happy that they can’t handle their business, including motor vehicle registrations and marriage licenses, on Thursdays and Fridays so the clerk staffers hear about it when they are open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Vigil said.

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Custer County’s contentious election

How big was that ballot? Custer County Clerk Kelley Camper and Secretary of State Wayne Williams enjoy a light-hearted moment during a tour of the polling center Friday in Westcliffe. (SOS photo)

The voter turnout in Custer County will likely end up one of the highest in the state, fueled by an attempt to recall the three county commissioners and a measure to enact building codes countywide.

So far the turnout has hit 48 percent for the election, with ballots due by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“There’s just a lot of interest,” Clerk and Recorder Kelley Camper said told Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams during his visit Friday to Westcliffe. He earlier that day visited clerks in Las Animas and Huerfano counties.

Camper told Williams she was on the phone with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office quite a bit over the summer and fall, boning up on rules for a recall election. Williams is very familiar with those rules: When he served as the El Paso County clerk and recorder he oversaw several recall elections, including the recall of the state Senate president in 2013 over the Democrat’s support for tougher gun laws.

The Take Back Custer County Recall Committee is attempting to recall commissioners Bob Kattnig, Donna Hood and Jay Printz, all Republicans, alleging violation of public meeting laws.

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Chaffee County: a cold wind and a hot city election

Salida voter Sandra Hobbs drops off her ballot Monday in the ballot drop box outside the Chaffee County clerk’s office. (SOS photo)

A  cold wind blew leaves across the Chaffee County courthouse lawn on Monday as Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell told Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams how Salida’s municipal election has voters fired up.

“There’s a difference of opinion on the direction the city should go,” Mitchell said,  noting each of the three ward races are contested as is the mayor’s race.

As if on cue, Salida resident Sandra Hobbs got out of her vehicle and walked up to the 24-hour ballot box located outside the courthouse.

“It’s been something else,” she said of the city election.

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Harvard’s “D3P” group checks out Colorado’s elections

A Harvard group exploring elections and security issues toured the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and Denver Elections on Friday. Defending Digital Democracy, an initiative of the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center project, aims to deliver a publicly available resource that provides solutions and best practices to help close or mitigate digital security gaps.

Members of a much-ballyhooed project from Harvard’s Belfer Center that is aimed at helping election administrators and others protect democratic processes from cyber and information attacks were in Denver Friday to soak up Colorado’s elections process.

Election officials from as far away as La Plata and Mesa counties participated.

“The visit was phenomenal for all of us,” said Jen Nam, an Army reservist with  expertise in intelligence. “It was an eye-opening experience for how advanced and complex the elections process can be.”

Nam’s a student at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which in July launched the “Defending Digital Democracy” Project. The initiative received plenty of attention because it is co-led led by the former campaign managers for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades respectively, along with experts from the national security and technology communities.

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