From her Denver garage to D.C. — a “new American” success story

Lorena Cantarovici, owner of Maria Empanada, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at her Greenwood Village store. She was named the 2017 Colorado Small Business Person of the Year. (SOS photo)

The 2017 Colorado Small Business Person of the Year on Tuesday welcomed Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams to her empanada store and offered advice for others thinking of following their dream.

“Don’t be afraid. Be fearless,” said Argentinian native Lorena Cantarovici, owner of Maria Empanada.

She still gets goosebumps when she thinks about going to Washington, D.C., this year to be honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration for being the state winner.

That’s quite a journey for an immigrant who arrived with less than $500 in her pocket and began making pastries for her friends out of her kitchen and garage, and ended up operating three stores in the metro area.

Williams visited Cantarovici’s store in Greenwood Village as a way to remind Coloradans that their nominations for the state’s 2018 Small Business Person of the Year are due next month.

“Part of why we’re here is the Secretary of State’s office is the office in which you form a business. We’ve got more than 660,000 businesses in Colorado and and we want to encourage people to think about what is that next Maria Empanada, the next small business success story that we should celebrate here in Colorado,” Williams said.

“One of the great things about America is the opportunity everyone has to succeed. You get to go the direction you want to. In some cases, you convince people to buy this thing called an empanada that they might not ever have heard of before.”

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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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