Colorado county clerks hope lawmakers fix early-voting rules

Members of the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission watch the clip from VICE News about the Secretary of State’s ” war-games, election style,” exercise in September. Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane, second from left, was prominently featured in the show. (SOS Photo)

County clerks say a state law that dictates how many early-voting election facilities they must operate should be changed to allow local governments to make that decision.

They made their appeal Wednesday during the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission meeting, the last one under outgoing Secretary of State Wayne Williams. He assembled the group in 2016 to provide feedback on elections.

The clerks have argued through several elections that the number of voters who visit the Voter Service and Polling Centers, or VSPCs, particularly in the first week they are open, doesn’t make sense because of the low turnout. Clerks would like to devote the resources  where they need them.

Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon noted that her in-person voting center is the courthouse in Sterling, but she is required to open two additional facilities in the county on Election Day.

“I had 20 people at one location and six at the other,” she said. “Those two extra locations short me where I need hands the most, which is at the county office.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Michael Valdez with the Special District Association, who serves on the Bipartisan Election Advisory Committee. Behind them is Melissa Polk, an attorney in the SOS’ elections division. (SOS photo)

Williams also discussed Colorado’s record turnout in the mid-term election — second in the nation behind Minnesota — and his office’s nationally lauded efforts on election security.

“Our clerks did a phenomenal job. Our staff did a phenomenal job as well,” Williams said. “I want to say thank you to all of them for that.”

Douglas County Clerk Merlin Klotz returned the compliment.

“Where Colorado stands as far as the most secure place to vote speaks for the entire team and the job you’ve done,” he told Williams.

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Public Sector Innovation award brought home to Colorado

Hilary Rudy and the 2018 Public Sector Innovation award, presented to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office for implementing risk-limiting audits. (SOS photo)

Deputy Elections Director Hilary Rudy earlier this month went to pick up the public sector innovation award given to Colorado for the use of risk-limiting audits.

The awards dinner was held in McLean, Va., where vendors, local, state and federal government projects were recognized for reimagining public-sector IT.

The Public Sector Innovation category “focuses on transformative tech that is truly reinventing government — at the federal, state and local levels,” according to the Government Innovation Awards website. Colorado’s RLA process in August was recognized as being the gold standard for ensuring election results.

A risk-limiting audit is a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is right and has a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome. Risk-limiting audits require election officials to examine and verify more ballots in close races and fewer ballots in races with wide margins.

The SOS office was nominated for the award by Free & Fair, a company that provides elections services and systems. They developed the software used in Colorado’s risk-limiting audit in the 2017 coordinated election.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to pick up the public sector innovation award on behalf of Colorado,” Rudy said. “It’s an honor to be recognized alongside these incredible innovation projects.”

Colorado Common Cause honors democracy champions

Colorado Common Cause held its Champions for Democracy lunch today in Denver, attracting members and others interested in Colorado civics. From left to right, attorney Scott Martinez, Amber McReynolds, executive director of National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition, Roy Wardell, who joined the national Common Cause organization when it was founded in 1970, and Amanda Gonzalez, the executive director of Colorado Common Cause. (SOS photo)

A 77-year-old man who was a charter member of Common Cause when it formed in 1970 became emotional today when he was honored by the Colorado chapter of the grassroots organization.

Roy Wardell, who now lives in Platteville, was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in 1970 when he saw an ad in the Capital Times about being a “member of the people’s lobby.” And so he signed up.

Since then, Wardell has served on the board of Common Cause in Minnesota and in Colorado, starting in 2009 through the beginning of this year.

“I am so proud of what Common Cause does,” Wardell said, when he gained his composure. “Don’t miss a chance to support the kind of work Common Cause does.”

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The Fightin’ Granny fights no more

Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, and William Kane, 10, of Lakewood, during a news conference at the state Capitol in 2008. William had urged the lawmaker to pursue a resolution making skiing and snowboarding the official winter sports of Colorado. Green died Wednesday at the age of 79. (George Kochaniec Jr./Rocky Mountain News/ Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library)

“The Fightin’ Granny,” as former Rep. Gwyn Green was known, has died, unleashing a string of memories of the lawmaker, whose first victory in 2004 was so close it led to a recount.

She campaigned in a 1954 Chevy pickup that belonged to a fellow Jefferson County Democrat, Max Tyler, who succeeded Green when she resigned effective June 1, 2009, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Ian Silverii, now the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, credits Rep. Gwyn Green for his deep involvement in Colorado Democratic politics. (Silverri FB photo)

Among those who paid tribute to Green after news of her death spread was Ian Silverii, now the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado.

He wrote on his Facebook page how in 2007 he packed everything he owned in his grandfather’s 2001 Dodge Intrepid and drove from New Jersey to Colorado, where he managed his first state House campaign, for Green.

“Gwyn taught me everything about being progressive, having integrity, fighting the good fight and never letting up,” he wrote in part.

“I’ll never forget her infectious laugh, her tireless work ethic, and her short temper for injustice. Gwyn Green earned her nickname, ‘The Fightin’ Granny’ and she’s the one who taught me how to fight for what’s right.

“Rest in peace friend, I wouldn’t have this life without your mentorship and your trust in me. The world lost a warrior, and Colorado lost a legend.”

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Secretary Williams’ war games, election style proves to be epic

Colorado Secretary of State shakes hands with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen before her keynote speech at Colorado’s Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity exercise Thursday. (DHS photo)

The role-playing was, well, EPIC.

When election and cybersecurity officials from Colorado and and other parts of the nation gathered for a training exercise, they were given assignments to play as various election disaster scenarios played out.

Misleading tweets that confuse voters. Equipment outages. Hackers.

Eagle County Clerk Regina O’Brien served as a county election director.

Dwight Shellman, the county support manager for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, plays the role of a reporter asking tough questions during a mock election disaster drill.  He is interviewing Tammy Patrick of Democracy Fund, while in the background is the SOS’s Steve Bouey. (SOS photo)

Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill portrayed her former employee, Dwight Shellman, who now is the county support manager for the Secretary of State’s office.

And Shellman assumed the identity of various Denver reporters, from the Colorado Sun’s John Frank to 9News’ Marshall Zellinger, asking tough questions of election officials.

“I out Marshalled Marshall,” Shellman boasted.

Welcome to war games, election style or, as the exercise was officially dubbed, EPIC — Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity.

The goal, Secretary of State Wayne Williams said, was to help prepare Colorado election officials for the Nov. 6 election. Clerks, their staffers, county IT officials and others gathered in five separate rooms and were instructed to deal with the scenarios that were unfolding.

Read moreSecretary Williams’ war games, election style proves to be epic