Secretary Wayne Williams tells clerks in Rifle he knows they’re always busy

Secretary of State Wayne Williams with county clerks who attended regional training in Rifle last week. Back row, left to right: Pam Phipps, Clear Creek, Kathy Neel of Summit, Michelle Nauer of Ouray, the secretary of state, Tressa Guynes of Montrose and Boots Campbell of Rio Blanco. Front row, Sara Rosene of Grand Junction, Teri Stephenson of Delta, Kathleen Erie of San Miguel, Colleen Stewart of Gilpin, Janice Vos Caudill of Pitkin, and Ladonna Jaramillo of San Juan. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams urged county clerks to voice their opinions next month after they view proposed regulations for allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections without any restrictions.

The Secretary of State’s office earlier asked some clerks for their ideas on drafting rules to deal with Proposition 108, which voters approved last November. It allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections without affiliating with a party. The Secretary of State’s office is working on proposed regulations to be sent to clerks in May.

“When you get the draft regulations, please review them,” Williams said. “Please let us know if something works or if something doesn’t work. I need both of those.”

Williams on Friday spoke to clerks and their staffs who gathered at the western region clerks’ conference in Rifle.

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Secretary Wayne Williams tells JBC why he spent grant funds

Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday afternoon. With him to his left is Chief of Staff Gary Zimmerman and Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert. To his right is the SOS's budget guru, Brad Lang.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday afternoon. With him to his left is Chief of Staff Gary Zimmerman and Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert. To his right is the SOS’s budget guru, Brad Lang.

In Boulder County, 158 ballots arrived in the mail the day after the Nov. 8 election. In Larimer County, only one arrived on Nov. 9, but there were 64 ballots the next day.

El Paso County reports that by Nov. 16, it has received 268 ballots that arrived after Election Day, while Douglas County by Nov. 14th had received 213 ballots.

Under Colorado law, a ballot must be in the possession of a county clerk by 7 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted. A District Court judge ruled in 2014 that even if ballots are postmarked before the election, they are invalid if they arrive after 7 p.m.

That’s why Secretary of Wayne Williams has been using federal Help America Vote Act funds to assist clerks in paying for 24-hour ballot drop boxes, which are regularly emptied by election workers. Williams was asked to explain his stance regarding the funds when he appeared before the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday afternoon.

“My philosophy is they ought to be used to try to get key parts of the Secretary of State’s mission done. One of the key factors is ensuring that every Coloradan is able to securely cast his or her ballot,” he said.

“My theory is the funds ought be used to help Colorado vote instead of being used to help the Secretary of State have a bank account. So yes, there was a more aggressive use of those grant funds over the past year.”

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Williams says 24-hour drop boxes make it easier for Coloradans to vote

The addition of a 24-hour ballot drop box outside of Pueblo's Patrick Lucero Library excited neighborh kids, who jokingly asked Secretary of State Wayne Williams if they could vote. (SOS photo)
The addition of a 24-hour ballot drop box outside of Pueblo’s Patrick Lucero Library excited neighborhood kids, who jokingly asked Secretary of State Wayne Williams if they could vote. (SOS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams helped two county clerks on Wednesday celebrate the opening of ballot drop boxes in their communities, saying it’s another step in making it easier for Coloradans to vote.

Voters in Bent County received their ballots on Tuesday and Clerk Patti Nickell was tickled to see 12 ballots in the box by Wednesday morning. Bent County Commissioner Bill Long admitted that at first he couldn’t see why Nickell was so intent on getting the box until Williams explained that voters love the service because they can drop off their ballots after work or on a Sunday.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Bent County Clerk Patti Nickells examine the 24-hour ballot drop box that was recently installed outside the courthouse. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Bent County Clerk Patti Nickell examine the 24-hour ballot drop box that was recently installed outside the courthouse in Las Animas. (SOS photo)

“We hope to have another box next year in in the east end of the county, at McClave,” Nickell  said. “I’m so glad Wayne is pushing this.”

Nickell said another 16 ballots were in the box Thursday morning.

Pueblo County on Wednesday celebrated the opening of its fourth round-the-clock ballot drop box, at the Patrick A. Lucero Library on the city’s eastside.

“What the heck is this?” a young boy called out when he spied the big white metal box covered with decals. “This is for Pueblo?” another asked. And a third wanted to know whether Williams was supporting Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

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Grand County: bullets and ballots

Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene, chief deputy clerk Patty Brown and Secretary of State Wayne Williams outside a voter drop box in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene, chief deputy clerk Patty Brown and Secretary of State Wayne Williams outside a voter drop box in Hot Sulphur Springs.

Talk about the Wild West.

On July 4, 1883, four masked men gunned down Grand County’s clerk and recorder and two of its commissioners. One commissioner managed to get off a shot and killed an attacker. When the mask was removed, it turned out to be the third county commissioner.

The other suspected killers were believed to be the county sheriff, undersheriff and the undersheriff’s brother, although no one was tried for the crime.

What led to the attack was moving the county seat from Hot Sulphur Springs to Grand Lake the previous year. The commissioners who were ambushed supported the move; the commissioner with the mask wanted to stay in Hot Sulphur Springs. Several years after the shooting, the seat was moved back to Hot Sulphur Springs.

The current county clerk, Sara Rosene, provided that history when asked why Hot Sulphur Springs, pop. 639, was the county seat rather than, say, Granby, pop. 1,791.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ visited Hot Sulphur Springs last week when he met with the county clerk and checked out the election operation.

“It’s so nice to have the secretary of state here,” said Rosene, who has been the clerk for 25 years. “We’re so intertwined with that office.”

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Secretary Williams says SOS will help clerks pay for 24-hour ballot boxes

Secretary of State Wayne Williams announces the state will help pay for 24-hour election drop boxes. Williams attended the Colorado County Clerks Association this week. (Julia Sunny)
Secretary of State Wayne Williams announces the state will help pay for 24-hour election drop boxes. Williams attended the Colorado County Clerks Association this week. (Julia Sunny)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams told county clerks this week that the state will help pay for ballot drop boxes to make it easier for their residents to vote.

The boxes allow voters to drop off their ballots 24 hours a day, including after hours and at locations other than just the clerks’ offices. Elbert County, for example, has a box inside the local Walmart.

“We really don’t want to be in a situation where somebody doesn’t get their vote counted because they didn’t have access to a ballot drop box and they weren’t able to drop by the time period that you’re open during business hours,” Williams said.

He also advised  election officials attending the Colorado County Clerks Association summer conference this week in the metro area to be ready for a deluge of last-minute voters Nov. 8. Williams pointed to presidential primaries in Maricopa County, Arizona, and New Hampshire, where the volume of voters overwhelmed election officials.

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