Secretary Williams visits Jackson, Grand county clerks

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visits with Jackson County Clerk Hayle Johnson and her staff in Walden on Monday. In the foreground is Johnson, who is standing, then Deputy Clerk Margaret Caulk and Deputy Clerk Tammi Gonzales behind the computer screen. (SOS photo)

Monday was the first day that county clerks could mail ballots to in-state voters, which made for interesting visits when Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams stopped in Jackson and Grand counties that day.

The number of active voters in scenic Jackson County is only 983, which is why they hand count their ballots, Clerk Hayle Johnson said.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene loaded boxes with ballots into the back of a truck to deliver to the post office. (SOS photo)

The secretary then headed south to equally beautiful Grand County, where Clerk Sara Rosene, her staff and election judges loaded boxes filled with ballots into two large county vehicles in a race to get them to the Post Office.

“As someone who used to be a clerk and recorder, I know the work that goes into getting ballots to the voters,” said Williams, who worked in El Paso County before being elected secretary of state in 2014.

All clerks in Colorado are mailing a record number of ballots for this election because it’s the first time in history unaffiliated voters can automatically participate in the primary elections. In the past, those voters did not receive primary ballots unless they affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party.

The number of active Republican and unaffiliated voters in Grand is nearly the same, 4,299 to 4,148, respectively, with Democrats trailing at 2,415 voters. But Republicans rule the roost in Jackson, with 677 active GOP voters, while there are 196 unaffiliated voters and 99 Democrats. Both counties have small numbers of third-party voters, who won’t be participating in the primary because they have no contested races.

Read moreSecretary Williams visits Jackson, Grand county clerks

Jason Kander’s candor delights Colorado Democrats

Jason Kander assembled a rifle while blindfolded in his U.S. Senate race, a topic that came up when he spoke to the Colorado Democratic Party at its annual dinner Saturday in Denver.

It turns out that the Missouri Democrat, who now is the president of Let America Vote,  hired the same ad man behind John Hickenlooper’s spot featuring the then-Denver mayor showering while clothed when running for Colorado governor in 2010.

“Jason ran, in my view, the best Senate campaign in 2016, Republican or Democrat,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said when he introduced Kander.

“And it wasn’t just because of his good ads or his family or because he’s a compelling speaker. It was because of his character. Jason the candidate was no different than the father, the husband, the former intelligence officer, the Secretary of State.”

Ah, secretary of state.

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$52 per vote? County clerks explore changing early-voting requirements

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission on Tuesday, which discussed early-voting requirements. Seated at the table are other commission members, including from left to right Aurora City Clerk Karen Goldman, Sen.-elect Dominic Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Steve House, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams addresses the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission on Tuesday, which discussed early-voting requirements. Seated at the table are other commission members, from left to right, Aurora City Clerk Karen Goldman, Sen.-elect Dominic Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Steve House, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. Behind Moreno is Douglas County Clerk Merlin Klotz. (SOS photo)

Colorado’s county clerks want some leeway when it comes to providing early-voting locations during general elections because of costs, the turnout and the difficulty in securing locations and judges.

Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane said the data suggests the first week could be eliminated – his county spent $52 per vote over those six days. But he said one option for Arapahoe might be reducing locations for that first week from 11 to just the clerk’s office and the four Motor Vehicle offices.

Martha Tierney, the attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party and a commission member, opposed the reductions.

“We saw two- and three-hour lines (on Election Day),” she said. “Let’s not forget that.”

The discussion about polling centers was the lone topic of discussion Tuesday at the fourth meeting of the Bipartisan Election Advisory Commission, which was created by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with support from legislators and others concerned with elections. The goal of the commission is to come up with solutions to fix election problems identified by Williams, his staff and others.

Williams told the group that he believes the data “clearly shows” that the present number of sites is excessive, but he doesn’t think the first week should be eliminated.

Read more$52 per vote? County clerks explore changing early-voting requirements

Why I gave to Project Angel Heart

Ellis McFadden was memorialized at the Project Angel Heart facility after his death in 2015. (Lynn Bartels/The Spot/Denver Post)
Ellis McFadden was memorialized at the Project Angel Heart facility after his death in 2015. (Lynn Bartels/The Spot/Denver Post)

Many good causes caught my attention on Colorado Gives Day but in the end I chose just one, in honor of a man whom I barely nodded to in life and came to admire in death.

I donated to Project Angel Heart because of the late Ellis McFadden, a community activist, selfless volunteer and “unwavering champion for equality” who died of throat cancer on July 5, 2015. He was 65.

His memorial service was held at Project Angel Heart, which delivers meals to improve the quality of life for those coping with life-threatening illness.

Although I had seen McFadden around the Capitol and at political events, I didn’t even know his name until 2013 when the Colorado Democratic Party honored him at its annual Jefferson Jackson dinner for his volunteer efforts. I mentioned him in an article about the event, but offered no details.

When McFadden was close to death, the legislature honored him as did Gov. John Hickenlooper, who issued a proclamation. Tributes poured in Facebook. That’s when I realized just how special he was.

“It will take an army of volunteers to fill his shoes,” Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver said at McFadden’s memorial service.

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Secretary Wayne Williams reflects on icons Bill Armstrong, Howard Gelt

Former Sen. Bill Armstrong backed Wayne Williams for county commission in a 1992 campaign flier.
Former Sen. Bill Armstrong backed Wayne Williams for county commission in a 2002 campaign flier.
Gov. Bill Owens and his El Paso County campaign chairman during Owens' 2002 re-election bid. Owens went on to win in a landslide and Williams won his first term as county commissioner. Williams now is Colorado secretary of state. (Williams photo)
Gov. Bill Owens and Wayne Williams in 2002. Williams was the El Paso County GOP chair when Owens won his first race for governor, in 1998. Williams took on the chair post after consulting a Democrat, Howard Gelt, who died last week. (Williams photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams crossed paths with Republican Bill Armstrong and Democrat Howard Gelt, political icons who died last week.

Armstrong died July 5, Gelt July 8. Colorado mourned the deaths of both men, who made such an impact on the state. (Check out the Secretary of State blog for separate stories on Armstrong, the guy who went from saying “no” to maybe,  and Gelt, an unsung force.)

What Williams had to say about each man:

HOWARD GELT:  In late 1996, I contemplated running for El Paso County Republican Party chairman. Howard was the former state chairman for the Colorado Democrats, but I knew he understood law and politics and he was in the Denver office of my law firm — Sherman & Howard. So I approached Howard about the possibility of my running for county chairman.

Read moreSecretary Wayne Williams reflects on icons Bill Armstrong, Howard Gelt