Inspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams speaks at a fundraiser Monday for Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan group that encourages high students to register to vote and get involved. To his left, in blue, is Donalyn White with Inspire Colorado and to her right, in a white shirt, is Bob Meinzer, a board member with the national Inspire group. (SOS photo)

Twitter is filled with suggestions about motivating young people to vote this year, but the Centennial State is way ahead of that idea, thanks to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Inspire Colorado.

Over the last three years, Inspire Colorado has worked with schools across the state in a student-led movement to register classmates to vote or get those already registered to pledge to vote. So far Inspire Colorado has signed up more than 7,000 students.

Williams — who got his start in politics in high school — believes it is so important for young people to be involved he established the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award, which the offices hands out to high schools where more than 85 percent of the senior class has registered to vote.

Roxane White, former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose daughter Donalyn White organized the fundraiser for Inspire Colorado. (SOS photo)

“We would not be where we are today in the state of Colorado without the wonderful support of the Secretary of State’s office and Secretary Williams,” said Ryan Drysdale, regional manager for Inspire Colorado.

Drysdale, Williams and Roxane White, the former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, were among the speakers at a fundraiser Monday night in Denver to benefit Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan organization that works with students, teachers and school administrators to talk to classes about the importance of civic engagement.

“I have to say that Inspire Colorado has become my top charity,” White said. “I’m concerned about the growing inequality in America and the growing anger in America and the feeling that we can’t make a difference.”

Read moreInspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Denver Clerk Debra Johnson: from spoof to serious

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with the Bob Ross-style spoof on Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson. (SOS photo)

The biggest laugh at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference came when people spotted the parody of Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson in a Bob Ross-style pose.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams — known for a laugh that a former staffer once called a tracking beacon — was one of the first to see the altered picture of Johnson and her painting and let loose.

He couldn’t wait to point it out to others who were looking at items clerks had assembled for their silent auction. The value of the Johnson item was listed as “priceless.”

“I howled when I saw it,” Johnson said. “It was hilarious.”

Then a second prank unfolded — driving up the bid and putting down the name of Johnson’s election director, Amber McReynolds, as the winning bidder for $300. She threatened revenge.

Read moreDenver Clerk Debra Johnson: from spoof to serious

Harvard’s “D3P” group checks out Colorado’s elections

A Harvard group exploring elections and security issues toured the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and Denver Elections on Friday. Defending Digital Democracy, an initiative of the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center project, aims to deliver a publicly available resource that provides solutions and best practices to help close or mitigate digital security gaps.

Members of a much-ballyhooed project from Harvard’s Belfer Center that is aimed at helping election administrators and others protect democratic processes from cyber and information attacks were in Denver Friday to soak up Colorado’s elections process.

Election officials from as far away as La Plata and Mesa counties participated.

“The visit was phenomenal for all of us,” said Jen Nam, an Army reservist with  expertise in intelligence. “It was an eye-opening experience for how advanced and complex the elections process can be.”

Nam’s a student at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which in July launched the “Defending Digital Democracy” Project. The initiative received plenty of attention because it is co-led led by the former campaign managers for Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney, Robby Mook and Matt Rhoades respectively, along with experts from the national security and technology communities.

Read moreHarvard’s “D3P” group checks out Colorado’s elections

Two election managers, from Denver, El Paso County, receive honors

Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds. (Photo by Alton Dillard)
Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds. (File photo by Alton Dillard/Denver Elections)

Denver Elections has won its latest prestigious award, for its first-in-the-nation innovation that allows voters to sign petitions and register to vote on a tablet instead of paper.

Denver received the Outstanding Achievement in International Institutional Engagement and Electoral Ergonomy from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) for its eSign/VRD.

“Some of the past award winners from the ICPS include former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former South African President Nelson Mandela,”  elections director Amber McReynolds said in a news release.  “To be recognized for our efforts is both humbling and indicative of our commitment to create innovative solutions that better serve our customers.

Meanwhile, another elections director,  Liz Olson, was named the Leader of the Year in the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office. The award typically does not go to someone in management.

“On the heels of a tremendously challenging and historical presidential election, it’s more than fitting to acknowledge the exceptional leadership skills of the person at the head of our Election Department, manager Liz Olson,” the El Paso County Clerk’s office posted on its Facebook page.

Read moreTwo election managers, from Denver, El Paso County, receive honors

Secretary Williams addresses Colorado Social Legislation Committee

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, flanked by Denver elections director Amber McReynolds and Rep. Su Ryden, at the Colorado Social Legislation Committee lunch Monday. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, flanked by Denver elections director Amber McReynolds and Rep. Su Ryden, at the Colorado Social Legislation Committee lunch Monday. (SOS photo)

By Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams outlined his legislative agenda, explained why he supports a presidential primary bill and discussed the selection of Dominion as the state’s new voting vendor when he spoke this week to the Colorado Social Legislation Committee.

This topic at  the CSLC week’s lunch  concerned elections; the other two panelists were Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director, and Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, who chairs the committee that hears most election measures.

Williams said he was warned before the 2016 session it would be difficult to get bills through a divided legislature in an election year. But so far things have gone well, he said, and one measure last week passed the Democratic-controlled House 65-0 and the Republican-controlled Senate 34-0.

“We’ve actually got some things done that needed to get done,” he said.

Read moreSecretary Williams addresses Colorado Social Legislation Committee