Colorado celebrates 125 years of women getting the right to vote

Women in Colorado campaign for the passage of the 19th amendment. ( The Autry Museum photo)

On Nov.  7th, the day after this year’s general election, Colorado will celebrate 125 years of women getting the right to vote.

The Atlas Obscura Society Denver will host a celebration event tonight at the historic Evans School. Activities include an interactive presentation by HistoriCity and a speech by Amber McReynolds, the executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute.

After two failed attempts, the women’s suffrage movement won voting rights for women by a state referendum in 1893. The amendment was drafted by J. Warner Mills, a Denver lawyer, and sponsored by state Rep. J.T. Heath of Montrose County. “The opposition saloonkeepers and brewers, who feared women voters would crack down on liquor, were not taking the suffrage campaign seriously and mounted little opposition,” according to an Internet article on the vote.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sits with students at Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver one year ago before presenting seniors with the Eliza Pickrell Routt award for voter registration. (SOS photo)

Colorado became the second state to enfranchise women behind Wyoming, paving the way for the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.

One of the leaders in the suffrage movement was Eliza Pickrell Routt, the wife of Colorado’s first governor, John Routt.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has honored the former first lady and her contributions to women’s suffrage by naming an award after her. It goes to high schools where 85 percent or more of the senior class has registered to vote.

“When women got the right to, she was the first one to register,” he said.

Read moreColorado celebrates 125 years of women getting the right to vote

NALEO chief asks Secretary Williams’ help in “saving the census”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right, again commits to encouraging Coloradans to participate in the 2020 census. He met this week with Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, and Gillian Winbourn and Rosemary Rodriguez of “Together We Count.” (SOS photo)

The head of a national Latino organization visited with Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams this week to talk about the importance of an accurate count for the 2020 census.

Arturo Vargas, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, enlisted Williams’ help to make sure Colorado residents are counted.  Williams explained the governor’s office handles the census, but that he would do everything he could so that Colorado gets its “fair share of everything from highway dollars, to housing, to community development block grants, to everything else that is out there.”

As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, America each decade counts its population. Vargas and Williams agreed that the message to Coloradans to participate is critical

“If you tell me it’s my civic duty,” Williams said, “it’s not as compelling as saying that this will help fix that road in front of your house or this will help a clinic or help provide funding for this various issue and tying it into something they care about.”

Read moreNALEO chief asks Secretary Williams’ help in “saving the census”

Bold ideas from Boulder County’s elections division

The coasters in action at a Boulder bar that contain voting info for residents of Boulder County. (Matt Benjamin, Facebook photo)

Bolder Boulder refers to a race, but can accurately be applied to the Boulder County elections division, too. This year,the division is giving away coasters, bookmarks, posters and even temporary tattoos that contain election information.

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams during a recent visit to her office in Boulder.

“Our office takes voter outreach seriously, and that means reaching voters in unconventional ways and unconventional places,” said Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall.

“By conducting our outreach in a variety of channels we are helping reinforce the message that voting is a priority. It helps the voter engage in the process, check their registration, and puts election information at their fingertips in a variety of settings.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams praised Hall and other clerks for their efforts to boost voter registration and turnout. “There’s a reason we’ve got the highest voter registration in the country, and we’re tops in turnout, too, and innovate ideas such as this are part of our success story.

Read moreBold ideas from Boulder County’s elections division

Secretary Williams serves on bipartisan election preparedness panel

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right,  joined other election experts  and others in Washington, D.C., to discuss “Are We Ready to Run Our Elections?” From left to right, moderator John Fortier, director of The Democracy Project, Thomas Hicks, the chair of the U.S.  Election Assistance Commission, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Secretary Williams. (NASS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams recently made a trip to the nation’s capital to discuss Colorado’s progress in keeping the voting process and voter registration accessible and secure.

As far as accessibility goes, Colorado is one of the easiest states to vote in, according to a recent study by Northern Illinois University.

“We are the Burger King of running elections,” Secretary Williams said. “You can basically have it your way — vote by mail, in person … lots of different ways for people to vote and participate.”

Williams was joined by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, and Thomas Hicks, chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. (NASS photo)

Williams addressed concerns over cybersecurity and foreign influence as part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s event, “Are We Ready to Run Our Elections?”

The panel discussed the 2016 election and what Masterson described as a “real and concentrated effort to undermine confidence.” Williams pointed out that many Americans are still troubled by the cyber attacks and dissemination of disinformation on social media in the last national election.

Both Masterson and Hicks said their roles are to support the states to prevent and respond to security threats, as well as encourage wider participation help to ensure a safe election.

The working relationship between Homeland Security and the National Association of Secretary of States,  or NASS, has improved.  Williams, who serves on the NASS board, said in 2016 the federal agency did not know who to tell about election security threats. Now, both the states and the federal government have made a concerted effort to work together.

“The difference between then and now is the difference between night and day,” he said.

Masterson, a former EAC member, agreed, noting “the biggest change and improvement is the amount of information being shared… We are just getting regular information from states and locals. That is critical to understanding the threat, sharing information, and managing risks.”

New Mexico and Colorado both utilize risk limiting audits to ensure that voter confidence remains high in the tabulation of the election and monitor social media to respond to misinformation.

“If you believe that your vote will get counted,” Williams said, “you’re more likely to vote.”

An abundance of appreciation for the Colorado Secretary of State staff

SOS staff enjoying the perks of employee appreciation week. (SOS photo)

It’s hard work to run an office as seamless as the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Once a year, the Human Resources Department holds employee appreciation week to show thanks to staffers for all their efforts throughout the year.

Each day this week, activities were offered such as daily walks, trivia questions, food and more:

Monday: The week kicked off with “Statey” award ballots, where the staff nominates their colleagues for various awards, and try to solve puzzles about the office and employees.

Bagels and coffee were served for breakfast on Tuesday. (SOS photo)

Trivia question of the day — Who won the coveted “Sunshine Award” in last year’s Statey Awards? Carla Moore, in the Finance Department and she’s been beaming even brighter ever since.

Tuesday: Employees were treated to bagels, cream cheese, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate for breakfast.

Trivia question of the day — Which month contains the most days that our office is closed (not including weekends)? November.

Read moreAn abundance of appreciation for the Colorado Secretary of State staff