Secretary Williams addresses Colorado Social Legislation Committee

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, flanked by Denver elections director Amber McReynolds and Rep. Su Ryden, at the Colorado Social Legislation Committee lunch Monday. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, flanked by Denver elections director Amber McReynolds and Rep. Su Ryden, at the Colorado Social Legislation Committee lunch Monday. (SOS photo)

By Keara Brosnan

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams outlined his legislative agenda, explained why he supports a presidential primary bill and discussed the selection of Dominion as the state’s new voting vendor when he spoke this week to the Colorado Social Legislation Committee.

This topic at  the CSLC week’s lunch  concerned elections; the other two panelists were Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director, and Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, who chairs the committee that hears most election measures.

Williams said he was warned before the 2016 session it would be difficult to get bills through a divided legislature in an election year. But so far things have gone well, he said, and one measure last week passed the Democratic-controlled House 65-0 and the Republican-controlled Senate 34-0.

“We’ve actually got some things done that needed to get done,” he said.

Read moreSecretary Williams addresses Colorado Social Legislation Committee

Colorado’s county clerks learn, laugh, lip sync at winter conference

Steven Bennett with Dominion Voting Systems, the firm selected to provide equipment for the state, talks with clerks at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference this week in Fort Collins. The clerks are, left to right, Kiowa's Delisa Weeks, Cheyenne's Patricia Daugherty and Washington's Garland Wahl.
Steven Bennett with Dominion Voting Systems, the firm selected to provide equipment for the state, talks with clerks at the Colorado County Clerks Association conference this
week in Fort Collins. The clerks are, left to right, Kiowa’s Delisa Weeks, Cheyenne’s Patricia Daugherty and Washington’s Garland Wahl.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod.

Colorado’s hard-working county clerks traded tips on what works — and what might not — during their winter conference this week in Fort Collins.

The Colorado County Clerks Association’s conference offered clerks and their staffs the opportunity to attend a variety of workshops on topics ranging from motor vehicle registrations, the November election and communication best-practices.

“We’re a small county,” said Moffat County Clerk Lila Herod. “We really need to think outside the box and you get ideas to do that at this conference.”

Secretary of State Wayne Williams attended the three-day event.

Colorado Secretary of State gets a kick out of the cupcake he received Tuesday on his 53rd birthday. It was presented to him by Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association at its conference in Fort Collins.
Colorado Secretary of State gets a kick out of the cupcake he received Tuesday on his 53rd birthday. To his right is Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

“Both I and my staff welcomed the opportunity to share best practices and legal requirements with our county partners,” Williams said. “And I enjoyed seeing so many of my friends.  If I had to be away from family for my birthday, there’s no finer group to be with.”

Williams turned 53 on Tuesday. Clerks serenaded Williams after Pam Anderson, the executive director of the association, presented the secretary with a cupcake.

Williams talked to the clerks about his decision to go with vendor Dominion Voting Systems, which was the No. 1 choice of a committee studying voting systems.  And he announced Wednesday that the state will use federal Help America Vote Act funds to cover 50 percent of a county’s costs to train, test, install and manage the project this year and next.

Gunnison County is one of more than 20 counties that will be switching to Denver-based Dominion this year.

Chief Deputy Clerk Diane Folowell said she spent a “considerable amount of time” meeting with Dominion, one of the many vendors that had a booth set up at the conference.

Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion and Chief Deputy Clerk Diane Folowell.
Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion and Chief Deputy Clerk Diane Folowell.

Gunnison Clerk Kathy Simillion said learning about the equipment was “just part of it.”

“I also enjoy the camaraderie and learning ideas from other clerks,” she said.

For several clerks, it was a chance to meet for the first time the secretary of state staffers they have talk to on the phone on a regular basis.

The conference also saw the changing of the guard, with Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane taking over for La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker as president. Logan County Clerk Pam Bacon is the president elect, while Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell was sworn in as vice president.

Former Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle was named an honorary lifetime clerk.  He was introduced by his successor,  Clerk Angela Myers.

“I look out upon this room and see lots of hardworking clerks. The work you do is challenging, but it is extremely important and the basis of our free society,” Doyle said.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Denver Clerk Debra Johnson and SOS staffers during the lip-synch competition at the Colorado County Clerks Association banquet Wednesday in Fort Collins. The group was introduced as "Lil Wayne and the Hanging Chads."
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Denver Clerk Debra Johnson and SOS staffers during the lip-synch competition at the Colorado County Clerks Association banquet Wednesday in Fort Collins. The group was introduced as “Lil Wayne and the Hanging Chads.”

After the banquet,  clerks and their staffs competed in a hilarious lip-sync contest. Weld County Clerk Carly Koppes and staffers took top prize for for their rendition of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”

Williams and his staff, along with Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, performed “Under Pressure.” They got a good laugh when they were introduced as “Lil’ Wayne and the Hanging Chads.”

County clerks make their pitch on what voting system Colorado should select

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visits with Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell prior to a meeting Friday about new voting equipment.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visits with Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell in his office in Denver prior to a meeting Friday about new voting equipment.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams today thanked the eight counties that served as “guinea pigs” and tested new equipment in the Nov. 3 election — equipment the state is considering selecting before the 2016 presidential election.

“I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to a lot of folks because this has not been an easy project,” Williams said.

He noted that when he was El Paso clerk and recorder, he and former Secretary of State Donetta Davidson served on a committee that looked at moving the state to a universal voting system. When Williams took office in January, he established the Pilot Election Review Committee to look at the issue. The pilot program, he said, was part of a”common sense approach of trying it before buying it.

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner and Denver County Clerk Deb Johnson tested voting machines from Dominion.
Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner and Denver County Clerk Deb Johnson tested voting machines from Dominion.

“I wanted to say thank you to … all the clerks and their staffs who said, ‘Yes, we will be guinea pigs.’ And it was not an easy thing to say, ‘We’re running an election and we’re going to try out completely new stuff  and we’re going to have all these people watching us,'” Williams said.

“It’s important fiscally for the counties that have to make these purchases that we make good selections. (The machines) don’t just serve us today, but serve us in the future as well.”

He also thanked his staff and members of the  Pilot Election Review Committee prior to presentations from county clerks and  their staffs. The county workers all made a pitch for the committee to recommend to the secretary to select the equipment they tested during the election, although they also discussed weakness they spotted and features that need to be improved.

Read moreCounty clerks make their pitch on what voting system Colorado should select

Colorado voters in eight counties tested new voting systems

E-2, a 3-month old Australian Shepard owned by Casey and Rick Newman, is in training to be a service dog. She is learning the Clear Access voting system in order to assist disabled Gilpin County voters. The Gilpin County Clerk and Recorder’s office was one of two pilot county for the Clear Ballot voting system. (Gilpin County clerk's office)
E-2, a 3-month old Australian Sheperd owned by a Gilpin County election judge, checks out new voting equipment. E-2 is in training to be a service dog, including assisting disabled Gilpin County voters. Gilpin was one of eight Colorado counties involved in a pilot program testing voting systems. (Gilpin County clerk’s office)

Here’s to the eight Colorado county clerks, their staffs and the residents in those jurisdictions who tested new voting equipment in the November election as part of a pilot program.

The aim was to help Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams figure out which system might be best for the state. Colorado currently uses a patchwork of different systems and some machines are beyond repair.

 “It’s a great opportunity to try different systems and rather than just buying them, we’re trying a new kind of common-sense approach of try before you buy,” Williams said.

One large county and one mid-sized county were paired together to test machines from four different companies: Clear Ballot, Dominion Voting Systems, ES&S or Hart InterCivic.  Elections officials were effusive in their praise of the voting machine firms and the support their employees provided.

A committee that has been studying the issue of new voting machines for Colorado is scheduled to meet at  9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. The four voting systems providers are coming in to answer questions from the Pilot Election Review Committee and make a pitch for their systems.

Read moreColorado voters in eight counties tested new voting systems

Secretary Wayne Williams: “looking for better elections in Colorado”

The Teller County clerk got a visit Monday from Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Matt Masterson, a federal elections commissioner checking out Colorado counties testing new voting equipment. From left to right are: elections deputy Janice Hellman, Masterson, Williams, Clerk Krystal Brown and chief deputy clerk Stephanie Wise.
The Teller County clerk got a visit Monday from Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Matt Masterson, a federal elections commissioner checking out Colorado counties testing new voting equipment. From left to right are: elections deputy Janice Hellman, Masterson, Williams, Clerk Krystal Brown and chief deputy clerk Stephanie Wise.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visited Teller County today talking to Clerk and Recorder Krystal Brown, who is one of eight county clerks participating in a pilot program testing voting machines.

The state is looking toward going to as few as one voting system, instead of the patchwork system currently in operation throughout the state. The four companies involved in the pilot program are Dominion, Hart InterCivic, ES&S and Clear Ballot.

Williams last week visited other pilot counties as well as new clerks and recorders who took office in January in preparation for Election Day on Tuesday.

Reading glasses for Teller County voters.
Reading glasses for Teller County voters.

Stephanie Wise, the chief deputy clerk for Teller County, said elections are stressful, but the visit from Williams and Matt Masterson, a commissioner with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission was anything but.

“It was a nice visit,” she said.

She said Teller has two voter centers, one in Woodland Park and one in Cripple Creek, and the judges are “bored to tears.” That’s because, she said, most Coloradans mail in their ballots. All ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Williams said Teller offered a nice touch for voters: a pair of reading glasses for those that have hit that age.

Here are reports from Adams, Douglas, Morgan and Weld counties about the secretary’s visits:

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Christi Coburn, elections administrator for Adams County, and Adams County Clerk Stan Martin.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with Christi Coburn, elections administrator for Adams County, and Adams County Clerk Stan Martin.

ADAMS COUNTY

Adams County Clerk Stan Martin said Williams toured the county’s election facility to get an idea of “a day in the life of a mail ballot.”  Williams also thanked Adams for being one of eight counties participating in the pilot program to test systems from four different companies.

“He said, ‘We’re looking for better elections in Colorado,”’ Martin reported.

Adams  and Gilpin counties are testing the Clear Ballot  ballot system.  Martin and Gilpin Clerk Colleen Stewart are big fans.

“The more I learn about the other systems, the more I like Clear Ballot,” Martin said. “I’m looking for three things: accuracy, effectiveness and transparency.”

Read moreSecretary Wayne Williams: “looking for better elections in Colorado”