Colorado’s county clerks contend with democracy and DRIVES

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams joined three members of the Arapahoe County Clerk’s office for a scenic photo outside the Salida SteamPlant where the Colorado County Clerks Association held its summer conference Aug. 20-22. From left to right, Williams, spokeswoman Haley McKean, Clerk Matt Crane and election manager Todd Davidson. (SOS photo)

Colorado’s county clerks gathered in Salida for their summer conference, combining educational workshops on various topics, such as election security, with lighthearted events, including visiting an arcade.

For some, the Colorado County Clerks Association conference was a bittersweet experience — more than one-fourth of the 64 county clerks will run their last election on Nov. 6. Some have decades of experience and have decided it is time to retire, others are term limited or choose not to stay in office.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, back row, left, mingles with county clerks at the opening night reception for the clerks summer conference in Salida Aug. 20-22. Front row: Lincoln County’s Corrine Lengel, Yuma County’s Bev Wenger, and Baca County’s Sharon Dubois. Back row, Williams, Logan County’s Pam Bacon and Adams County’s Stan Martin. (SOS photo)

“Working in the clerk’s office has been a wonderful, exciting ride,” said Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod, who began in 1989, eventually was elected clerk and now is term limited.

“I have been truly blessed to serve the citizens of Moffat County and to be in the company of the smartest, most dedicated, hardworking people in the world.”

Secretary of State Wayne Williams updated clerks on a variety of topics his office is handling.

“I served as El Paso County’s clerk and recorder so I understand what our clerks go through. They don’t just run elections. They record documents and register vehicles and more,” Williams said. “Our office is here to help them in any way we can.”

The clerks praised Williams and his staff for their efforts.

Read moreColorado’s county clerks contend with democracy and DRIVES

Elections guru praises Colorado’s methods

David Becker, right, with the center for Election Innovation and Research, was in Colorado one week ago for the primary election. In January, Becker attended the Colorado County Clerks Association Conference with Dwight Shellman, left, of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, and Jennifer Morrell, formerly the election director at the Arapahoe County Clerk’s office and now a consultant with Democracy Fund. (SOS photo)

Colorado received high praise from election security guru David Becker, who was in Colorado to observe the primary election one week ago.

Becker, the founder and director of Election Innovation & Research, wrote about what he observed in his blog.

“It was a great opportunity to watch professionals in their environment and see how their work isn’t static,” Becker said. “They are constantly seeking improvements in security and efficiency.”

This was the first time in Colorado history that unaffiliated voters were allowed to automatically participate.

“David asked to observe Colorado’s primary election to get a better sense of the security protocols we utilize and see our election in practice, Judd Choate, Colorado state elections director said. “We were happy to host him.”

Becker spent the day between the Secretary of State’s office and Denver Elections. He observed how a ballot is received and tabulated in Denver, and noted how calm the process is because most Coloradans vote by mail.

At the Secretary of State’s office, Becker witnessed information sharing about potential cyber threats throughout the day.

“Colorado and Denver County are at the leading edge of blending efficiency, convenience, and security for voters,” he said. “Even in the face of significant threats from foreign countries and others, thanks to examples like those in Colorado and Denver County – and many other places – election cybersecurity is improving substantially and will continue to improve through 2018 and 2020.”

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

Colorado’s hard-working county clerks face unique challenges this year

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with three Eastern Plains county clerks at the Colorado County Clerks Association 2018 winter conference: Lincoln’s Corinne Lengel, Logan’s Pam Bacon, and Yuma’s Beverly Wenger. (SOS photo)

Colorado’s county clerks are bracing for major changes this year, from mailing primary ballots to unaffiliated voters for the first time ever to revamping the Motor Vehicle operations their offices handle.

To prepare for 2018, the Colorado County Clerks Association at its winter conference in Colorado Springs last week offered workshops dealing with duties that most clerks handle, including recording documents, issuing license plates and running elections.

The association also installed new officers for the coming year. Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell succeeded Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon as the group president.

“We need to thank the Secretary of State staff for working so hard with us this year and for the last several years,” Bacon said. “We have a pretty great working relationship with them and it takes all of us to make changes that work.”

Williams reviewed a list of achievements, including the completion of the first statewide risk-limiting audit designed to catch election errors. He also updated clerks on the installation of  ballot boxes to make it easier for voters to drop off their ballots 24-7, and the implementation of Dominion Voting Systems equipment that clerks say has made elections easier to run.

“We are the talk of the nation, as usual,” Williams said. “We are rock stars.”

Read moreColorado’s hard-working county clerks face unique challenges this year

Colorado’s mail ballot elections ignite interest in Alaskan officials

Claire Richardson, the Alaskan lieutenant governor’s chief of staff, flanked by Alaskan elections staffers, during a visit Thursday to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. (SOS photo)

Colorado is one of the top five states in the country for voter turnout, due in part to its mail-ballot system for elections.

Secretary of State Williams encourages election officials from other states to visit and see how elections in Colorado are run. Alaskan officials did just that Thursday.

Alaskan election officials, including four people from the secretary of state’s office, one state senator, and two interest group representatives visited Denver Elections and then the Secretary of State’s office.

Alaska State Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak holds us the plate of salmon he declined to eat while at a Denver restaurant Thursday. He jokingly suggested it was farm-raised and not worthy of an Alaska resident.

During lunch at Maggiano’s, the Alaskan delegation mentioned that they were envious that the Colorado Secretary of State’s election division is housed in one location, and not spread across the state. They run across many challenges running an election in such a large state where the Capitol, Juneau, is accessible only by plane or ferry.

Secretary Williams, Colorado elections director Judd Choate, and county support manager Dwight Shellman, sat down with the Alaskan officials to discuss Colorado elections’ processes and what Colorado does to maintain the integrity of elections.

Shellman explained the innovative risk-limiting audits system Colorado will utilize in the next election. Colorado is the first state to implement statewide RLAs to elections, a new and better type of post-election audit.

Read moreColorado’s mail ballot elections ignite interest in Alaskan officials