Two Colorado counties receive election awards

Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds rack up another award, this one from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. (Photo by Alton Dillard)

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 speaks to voters through an interpreter during an open house at the Independence Centerin 2016 to show options for voters with disabilities. (El Paso County Clerk’s office)

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.”

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Secretary Williams heads south and west for latest clerks’ visit

R O A D   T R I P

Secretary Wayne Williams stands on a county road leading into San Luis in Costilla County. Late Monday he wrapped up a road tour that included county clerk visits, meetings with newspaper editors and a League of Women Voters forum in Durango. (SOS photo)

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.

For the most part, pretty dang good considering  the clerks for the first time used new equipment from Dominion Voting Systems, and they successfully completed the first ever post-election risk-limiting audit.

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.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited five counties on the New Mexico border on his last clerks’ visit.

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.”

Here’s a look at each county visit:

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Secretary Williams talks dollars and sense to JBC

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks with lawmakers and members of the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday before a hearing on the department’s budget. Left to right: Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction; Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley; Secretary Williams; Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; and JBC Chairwoman Millie Hamner, D-Dillon. (SOS photo)

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.

Secretary Wayne Williams, the SOS’ budget director, Brad Lang, and Rep. Susan Beckman, R-Littleton, at Tuesday’s Joint Budget Committee hearing. (SOS photo)

“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.

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Election 2017: Close counts inspires recounts

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Adams County Clerk Stan Martin can you tell you that every vote matters. (SOS photo)

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.

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Thankful thoughts this Thanksgiving

Local, state and federal election officials as well as election activists and observers, gather for a group shot at the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder’s election warehouse on Nov. 17, 2017. The participants, including Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Arapahoe Clerk Matt Crane, helped pull ballots in preparation for the county’s ballot tabulation. (Arapahoe County photo)

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.

Catherine Hill’s granddaughter, L.C. Cassandra. L.C. means Love Child. Her right kidney was removed in May 2016 because of a tumor taking 70 percent of it. She had 13 chemo treatments.

• “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 –

Dwight Shellman, SOS county support manager, with all his essentials for the first statewide risk-limiting audit. (SOS photo)

• “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.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, dear readers!”