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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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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Huerfano’s County election: the best kind of Cruz control

Huerfano County Clerk Nancy Cruz with one of her constant smiles as Bill Knowles, a reporter with the World Journal, and Huerfano County Commissioner Gerald Cisneros talk with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Friday in Walsenburg. (SOS photo)

The line at the Huerfano County Clerk’s counter  never seemed to subside on Friday and Clerk Nancy Cruz said it’s not just because of Tuesday’s election.

Marriage licenses, recording documents, Motor Vehicle registrations, the growing population of Huerfano County has lots of business to do and Cruz’s staff make sure it gets done.

Of course, the election is the big thing right now and the staff and election judges were taking in ballots and scanning them on the new equipment from Dominion Voting Systems.

“What a good system,” Cruz said.

Myrna Falk used to work for the clerk’s office and now is an election judge. When asked her age, she replied, “I’m older than dirt.”

“I can remember when we hand counted ballots in the basement,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot of (election) systems, believe me. But being able to run 25 ballots at a time through (Dominion), that’s something.”

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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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