Denver’s Amber McReynolds to take on a new election role

Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Denver Elections director Amber McReynolds, who will be assuming a new kind of election role this month.

Denver ‘s elections director Amber McReynolds announced last week that she will be resigning her post to take on a new role as the executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition. McReynolds has served in the City & County of Denver Clerk & Recorder office for the last 13 years, and the last seven as the director of elections.

During her tenure, she has overseen pivotal elections for the city of Denver and developed innovative techniques in election administration which earned the office numerous awards. McReynolds is most proud of Denver’s first-in-the-nation innovations Ballot TRACE and eSign which have both been adopted by other counties throughout the country.

Since Ballot TRACE was implemented in 2009, around 200,000 voters have started to use this customer service application to track their ballots and receive updates on the election, she said.  As a result, visibility of the election process has increased and Denver Elections has experienced a 90 percent reduction in calls, McReynolds said.

“I have been blessed to lead an incredible and talented team at Denver elections to transform the office into an exceptional office that is now nationally and internationally recognized,” McReynolds said in a video the office released when she announced her resignation. “Serving the city I love in a field that I am deeply passionate about is what has made my time here so special and inspirational.”

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson thanked McReynolds for her service and dedication to Denver elections in a recent news release.

“Amber played a critical role in modernizing the election model in Colorado along with many efficiencies and innovations for Denver. We will miss her and her visionary leadership, and wish her the best of luck in her new endeavor,” Johnson said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams noted that McReynolds is recognized nationally for her efforts.

National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition (NVAHI) focuses on removing barriers to voter participation by encouraging states to adopt a Vote at Home System or universal vote by mail. Moreover, NVAHI believes that “nothing is as fundamental — or as foundational — to the success of our country, as ensuring that when elections happen, as many votes as possible can and do participate.”

McReynolds will leave Denver Elections on Aug 15, but plans to be based in Denver for her new job.

Secretary Williams, others, concentrate on election security in Philly

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, center front, with some of the nation’s secretaries of state, including Colorado’s Wayne Williams, back right. She spoke to the National Association of Secretaries of State about election security at NASS’ conference in Philadelphia on July 14.

Election security once again dominated the conversation — and Colorado once again proved to be a leader — when the National Association of Secretaries of State gathered in Philadelphia for its summer conference.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams outlined for the group the steps his office has taken when it comes to cybersecurity — moves that that led Colorado to be named a finalist for the fourth time in five years for a NASS award that recognizes innovation.

“Elections only work if people trust them,” Williams said.

Four Coloradans with a seat at a high-powered elections security meeting in Philadelphia; Judd Choate, elections director for the Colorado secretary of state, Sarah Ball Johnson, clerk for the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Amber McReynolds, elections director for Denver.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the director of the Department of Homeland Security, reinforced to secretaries of state and election officials that one of her top priorities has been to enhance the resilience of the nation’s election infrastructure.

“As I see it,” she said, “election security is national security.”

And the day before NASS kicked off its conference, Williams and other members of the Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council met at the same Philadelphia hotel to discuss the security of election systems.

The group oversees how the Department of Homeland Security works with state and local jurisdictions to implement its designation of elections systems as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

“At one point there were 27 people around the table — including members of DHS, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and other national groups – four of those 27 were from Colorado,” Williams said. “Colorado’s commitment to election security is so strong.”

The other Coloradans at that meeting were Judd Choate, the elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State, Sarah Ball Johnson, the clerk in Colorado Springs, and Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director.

Read moreSecretary Williams, others, concentrate on election security in Philly

Another election, another risk limiting audit for Colorado’s county clerks

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams watches Friday as two staffers with Denver Elections, Drake Rambke, and Stuart Clubb, indicate where ballots were pulled as part of a risk-limiting audit to ensure machines correctly tabulated the way a voter marked a ballot. (SOS photo)

For the second election in a row, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has overseen a risk-limiting audit designed to catch mistakes if they happened when ballots were tabulated.

The audit of the June 26 primary election involved 20, 10-sided dice, a variety of election officials from across the nation and Colorado county clerks excited to proclaim their results on social media.

Rudy Santos, chief deputy clerk for the Weld County clerk’s offices, watches as election judges Stacey Kjeldgaard, left, a Republican, and Lyn Nelson, a Democrat, conduct their risk-limiting audit in Weld County on Saturday. (SOS photo)

“WooHoo!! Jeffco Risk-Limiting Audit completed!! 263 (ballots) with NO discrepancies!” the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office tweeted Saturday.

“The purpose for all this is so the voters can have trust and confidence in the system,” Williams said.

“There are some people who go into denial whenever they don’t win. ‘Everybody I talked to voted for me. How can I possibly not have won?’ This is part of providing that assurance to folks.”

Some counties are still in the midst of their audits, while others completed theirs last week.

Read moreAnother election, another risk limiting audit for Colorado’s county clerks

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