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!”

A roll of the dice and off goes Colorado to audit elections in a new way

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams explains what’s next after multi-colored 10-sided dice were used Friday to establish a “seed” to randomly select ballots for each county to audit. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)

A process to audit Colorado’s elections in a different manner drew national attention Friday when participants at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office plucked names from Rockies and Broncos baseball caps to see who would roll 20 colored 10-sided dice. The numbers were used to come up with a “seed” to randomly select ballots from the Nov. 7 election for the counties to audit.

From left, U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairman  Matt Masterson, Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane and Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall wait for dice to be rolled, the first step in randomly selecting ballots for each county to audit during the RLA. (SOS photo)

The light-hearted ceremony kicked off work that began in 2009 when the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation requiring every county after every election to create a risk-limiting audit, a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is right and has a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome.

“It was an incredibly successful first effort,” said the Secretary of State’s Dwight Shellman, the county support manager.  “I’m really proud of our team and of all the county clerks. We are already in the process of working with the clerks and interested stakeholders to collect lessons learned to make the process even better in the future.”

The Secretary of State’s office will release a report Monday on the first steps of the audit.

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Voting and vocation at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School

“I think voting rights is about human rights.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sits with seniors at Arrupe Jesuit High School Monday morning before handing out an award to the school for its effort in registering eligible students to vote. (SOS photo)

In a ceremony filled with prayers and promise, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Monday recognized Arrupe Jesuit High School for its efforts in getting students registered to vote.

The north Denver Catholic school serves the economically disadvantaged and one of its goals to empower graduates to continue their education and return to their communities as leaders. The 420-member student body is 93 percent Hispanic and 77 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, students at Arrupe Jesuit High School who encouraged their classmates to register to vote. (SOS photo)

During a senior assembly, Williams singled out two students, Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, for their efforts in working with the group Inspire Colorado to get their classmates inspired to register to vote.

Simpson and Tapia’s efforts led to the school receiving the Secretary of State’s Eliza Pickrell Routt award, which is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

“You’re going to graduate from high school soon. You’re going to be part of the community, and what happens in this community is up to you,” Williams said. “That’s the great thing about the democratic republic in which we live. There is no ‘the man” who makes the decisions for us. We get to make those decisions.”

Also addressing the seniors was state Rep. Dan Pabon, who represents the neighborhood, and Ryan Drysdale with Inspire Colorado.

“Our faith tells us we are working for the least amongst us,”  Pabon said. “I think voting rights is about human rights. ‘Democracy’ can be a controversial word in the world. There are some people who don’t want to have the people control their government because, God forbid, they might actually do something that helps the people.”

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From Telemundo to a town hall, Secretary Williams on the go

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams stands with volunteers answering election questions during a phone bank at Telemundo on Thursday. They are, left to right, Ben Schler with the SOS; John Shoch; his daughter, Gloria Shoch and Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talked elections Thursday night in two appearances, first at Telemundo and then at a town hall with Sen. Angela Williams at Manual High School in Denver.

The interview at Telemundo, an American Spanish-language television network, focused on Tuesday’s coordinated election. Most but not all of Colorado voters are deciding on contests in their districts, from tax questions to school board races and municipal contests.

In addition, the Secretary of State’s office participated in a phone bank, handling election questions from viewers.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and state Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, at a town hall Nov. 2. (SOS photo)

The conversation at Sen. Williams’ town hall concerned business operations at the office and elections, followed by a question-and-answer period.

Among the participants were Denver residents Pat Manning and Ruben Espinosa.

Secretary Williams  talked about the ballot measure voters approved last year that allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections without declaring to be a Republican or a Democrat. That means unaffiliated voters will receive both a Democrat and Republican ballot mailed to them for the June 2018 primary, but they can return only one ballot.

Already, there is plenty of interest in Colorado’s crowded open governor’s race and other contests.

“Angela and I, by the way, are two of the people in the state not running for governor,” the secretary of state said to laughter.

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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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