Mea culpa: the uproar over Colorado voter data rolls

“We applaud Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams for turning over only that data that is legally releasable, and dismiss as politically opportunistic calls from some that he should have turned his back to the commission’s request entirely.” –The Grand Junction Sentinel

Hundreds of Coloradans have called, e-mailed or written to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office in recent days, urging Secretary Wayne Williams to refuse to turn over public voter roll data to a commission appointed by President Donald Trump.

Had Williams announced he had no intention of doing so, he might have been a hero to some judging from the angry comments we have received. He also would have been breaking the law and setting, he believes, a dangerous precendent.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right, addresses the National Association of Secretaries of State last week in Indianapolis. To his left is California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. (Photo credit: Jonathan Hawkins Photography for NASS)

“Colorado law does not permit the secretary of state, county election officials or anyone else to say, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people I like,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to my friends,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people in my party,’” Williams said at a news conference last week.

“That is not a provision of Colorado law, nor do you want to put such a provision in place where only favored people can receive that information.”

In the meantime, Williams sponsored a resolution unanimously adopted this week at the National Association of Secretaries of States’ summer conference in Indianapolis. It reiterated that states are in charge of elections.

The furor over the White House’s request was felt from sea to shining sea, but I feel guilty about the depth of the angst in Colorado.

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Colorado’s Wayne Williams, other secretaries of state, discuss request for voter data

Secretaries of state, including Wayne Williams of Colorado, right, answer questions from the media Friday regarding a White House commission letter requesting public voter data. The National Association of Secretaries of State is meeting in Indianapolis for its summer conference.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said today at the National Secretaries of State summer conference that election officials work hard to make it easy to vote but difficult to commit voter fraud.

Williams was one of five secretaries of state from both parties who fielded questions from the media about a request from a White House presidential commission for voter data — a move that has set off a firestorm nationally and in Colorado. State law requires Williams to provide information that is public under the law, and for decades political parties and the press, campaigns and candidates have received voter records.

“You don’t want a secretary of state saying ‘OK, I’m not going to give the information to my political opponents, I’ll just give it to my friends,” he told reporters covering the NASS conference in Indianapolis.

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Secretary Williams talks to clerks about voter fraud

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Wednesday address county clerks on the state’s eastern edge, who were meeting in Sterling for training. (SOS photo)

Check out staffer Julia Sunny’s video on the visit with county clerks from the eastern regional. As Kiowa County Clerk Delisa Weeks says, “We’re small, but we’re fun.” YouTube video.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addressed the issue of voter fraud when he spoke to county clerks on the Eastern Plains Wednesday, warning them that in the coming months his office could be asking about certain constituents suspected of voting twice in the 2016 election.

“Some of you are aware there were accusations that there was rampant fraud in the elections. Some said there was no fraud,” Williams said. “The answer is somewhere in between.”

Colorado is part of a national months-long check of voter histories that flags the names of voters who appeared to have voted more than once.

“I anticipate there will be some people in Colorado who voted in multiple states. There are not tens of thousands of them. It did not change the result of the election,” Williams said.

“But there are elections that decided by a single vote. I presided over those elections as a county clerk. So we care about that issue. The message from us isn’t that vote fraud never occurs, but we make it difficult to occur and we help prosecute people when we find out about it.”

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Secretary Wayne Williams: “That’s the wonder of America”

Friends and families of immigrants taking the oath to become U.S. citizens record the moment. Secretary Wayne Williams is to the left. (SOS photo)
First Lady Melania Trump became a U.S. citizen in 2006.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams congratulated 50 immigrants from 28 countries on becoming Americans during a ceremony Monday in Centennial, telling them there are “very few limits as to what you can do.”

He told the story of Knavs family in Slovenia. Their daughter, who was born April 26, 1970, immigrated to the United States in 2001 and became a citizen five years later.

“In January she became the first lady of the United States,” Williams said. “So look to your left, look to your right. One of those people may be, in 11 years, first lady or first husband of the United States, just like Melania Trump.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen but that’s the wonder of America.”

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Secretary Wayne Williams finds future and past in Little Rock

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in front of the iconic Little Rock Central High School.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams often tells the story of how the high school he attended once shut done rather than integrate, and during a technology conference in Arkansas this week he got to see where the public showdown first began.

At the conference, Williams also got to ride in a self-driving vehicle and heard from the “Elliot Ness of cyber crime.”

As for the school, a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the integration of public schools was met with hostility. In Little Rock, nine black students were denied entrance to all-white Central High School, forcing a very public conflict between President Eisenhower and the Arkansas governor.

Wayne Williams in high school.

At Warren High School in Virginia, where Williams graduated in 1981, the school board decided to close the school rather than allow blacks to attend, which is why there was no graduating Class of 1959.

Williams said the area was still mired in backward thinking when he first attended school, which created an economic decline in the town, which is why he first got involved in politics.

“When I was 17 years old I gathered a group of friends together and we passed out literature to everyone walking into a polling place,” Williams often tells young leaders. “And through that we were able to change the power in my area from one party to my party. So I understand the importance of youth involvement.”

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