Chaffee County: a cold wind and a hot city election

Salida voter Sandra Hobbs drops off her ballot Monday in the ballot drop box outside the Chaffee County clerk’s office. (SOS photo)

A  cold wind blew leaves across the Chaffee County courthouse lawn on Monday as Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell told Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams how Salida’s municipal election has voters fired up.

“There’s a difference of opinion on the direction the city should go,” Mitchell said,  noting each of the three ward races are contested as is the mayor’s race.

As if on cue, Salida resident Sandra Hobbs got out of her vehicle and walked up to the 24-hour ballot box located outside the courthouse.

“It’s been something else,” she said of the city election.

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Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams hits the road again

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in Pagosa Springs on Day 1 of a four-day road trip.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in Pagosa Springs on Day 1 of a four-day road trip focused mainly in the southwestern part of the state.

Here’s Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ version of spring break: Visited nine county clerks. Checked out five newspaper offices. Attended three Go Code Colorado competitions. Spoke at one Club 20 event.

And all in four days.

Williams began his trip Wednesday morning in Greeley, where he met with Weld County Clerk Carly Koppes. By late afternoon he was in Pagosa Springs, talking to Archuleta County Clerk June Madrid and touring The Pagosa Springs Sun newsroom.

That night, Williams ate dinner in Durango with La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker — he visited her office Friday afternoon, too — and by the next morning he was ready to hit the road to talk with three other county clerks.

“Last year I met with all the new county clerks in their offices and this year and I am continuing to go meet with county clerks,” Williams said. “By going to their offices I get a better understanding of their set-ups and their challenges to ensure we are helping meet their needs.”

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Hey, hey, Paula, the state’s elections office will be missing you

Paula Barnett's last day at the Colorado Secretary of State's office is Friday. She is going to work for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell.
Paula Barnett’s last day at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office is Friday. She is going to work for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell.

By Keara Brosnan

Paula Barnett, a much respected staffer with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, is taking her elections experience to Chaffee County in order to be near her family.

Barnett’s last day with the state is Friday. She’ll begin working for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell on March 14.

“It will be fun to be with my daughter and her husband and her two beautiful daughters in the mountains,” said Barnett, who will live in Buena Vista and commute to Salida.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams understands her sentiment.

“As our first grandchild will be born later this month,” he said, “I certainly appreciate Paula’s desire to be near family.”

Barnett got her start in the Lincoln County clerk and recorder’s office’s,  and eventually was elected clerk.

“I sort of grew into it,” Barnett said. “Living in Hugo, which was a very small community and very grass roots, I got very involved in elections and the political process and caucuses.”

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Colorado county clerks: thinking outside the box regarding the box

Logan County has gone to drive-by voting, with Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon installing a new ballot drop box that allows voters to pull up and drop off their ballots.

Logan County Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon demonstrates how the new drop box can be closed and locked for times when there are deadlines for official documents, like ballots or tax payments. (Photo courtesy of Sara Waite / Sterling Journal-Advocate)
Logan County Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon demonstrates how the new drop box can be closed and locked. (Photo courtesy of Sara Waite / Sterling Journal-Advocate)

Bacon also got the OK from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office to make it a “multi-use box” so that county residents can drop off their motor-vehicle registrations.

Other county clerks also use 24-hour ballot boxes, which under secretary of state rules must be monitored by surveillance cameras with the data being preserved for 25 months.  It is illegal to drop off more than 10 ballots at a time, and the outside of the envelopes must be signed by the voter in order to  be counted, state  elections director Judd Choate said.

According to the Sterling-Journal Advocate, Bacon also reached out to the other county departments, with Treasurer Patty Bartlett believing the box would be useful for receiving tax payments. Bacon said residents can drop off correspondence for any county office, such as a letter to the county commissioners.

“Whatever is in there,'” Bacon told the newspaper, “we’ll make sure it gets to whatever county office it needs to.”

Here’s a look at ballot-box practices in some other counties, per their clerks or election officials:

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