With snacks by their sides and daubers in their hands, the Colorado County Clerks Association was ready to play some bingo Tuesday night at the Elks Lodge in Salida.
But before the action began, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams took center stage with Brandi Pugh, the exalted ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 808. Williams thanked the Elks for hosting the clerks for an evening of bingo, and he paid tribute to the Elks, which last month celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Secretary of State staffer Dwight Shellman returned from a hacking convention with the message that although Colorado’s elections are secure from the types of voting machine and website attacks demonstrated at the conference, state and local officials need to remain vigilant.
The 26th annual Def Con conference featured a large number of “villages” in which attendees learned about and sometimes attempted to hack a broad range of technologies and platforms, including automobile software and cannabis cultivation technologies. .
Shellman, the county support manager for the state Elections Division, focused most of his attention on the Voting Village, which invited participants to test “more than 30 pieces of electronic voting equipment” and “defend or hack mock office network and voter registration databases,” according to Def Con’s website.
He witnessed kiddie hackers gain access — but said the whole story wasn’t reported.
For the second election in a row, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has overseen a risk-limiting audit designed to catch mistakes if they happened when ballots were tabulated.
The audit of the June 26 primary election involved 20, 10-sided dice, a variety of election officials from across the nation and Colorado county clerks excited to proclaim their results on social media.
“WooHoo!! Jeffco Risk-Limiting Audit completed!! 263 (ballots) with NO discrepancies!” the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office tweeted Saturday.
“The purpose for all this is so the voters can have trust and confidence in the system,” Williams said.
“There are some people who go into denial whenever they don’t win. ‘Everybody I talked to voted for me. How can I possibly not have won?’ This is part of providing that assurance to folks.”
Some counties are still in the midst of their audits, while others completed theirs last week.
The tribute came as NASED gathered in Washington, D.C., for its winter conference.
The association’s goal is to promote accessible, accurate and transparent elections across the country and U.S. territories. The role of NASED, pronounced “NASS ed,” has grown increasingly more important as concerns mount over cyber security and foreign meddling.
“It has been an extraordinary year,” Choate said. “NASED is an amazingly important organization, and it has been my honor to lead it this past year.”
Choate, who has served on the group’s executive committee the past five years, received a baseball glove and ball signed by the NASED board. He’s a baseball fanatic who was a scout with the Kansas City Royals in the 1990s.
The group also gave him a bobblehead replica of himself in a seersucker suit.
NASED met at the Fairmont Hotel where the National Association of Secretaries of State also was holding its winter conference. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams serves NASS’ executive committee.
“Judd’s leadership of NASED has helped Colorado by giving us additional insights and opportunities,” Williams said. “I think he’s done a great job leading this important organization.”
Here is what some of the SOS staffers what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. Family and friends topped the list, but here are some of the more creative responses-
• “I’m thankful for my job, I JUST LOVE IT!! It allows me to work with a lot of veterans as well as community members. Cannot be thankful enough to the veterans for serving our country.” Darleen Herrera, charitable gaming investigator.
• “I am thankful for the opportunity to go visit family and to have family visit us. I am also thankful that the risk-limiting audit has proceeded in a fashion that neither we nor the clerks have to work on Thanksgiving.” Wayne Williams, secretary of state.
• “Just living! My 5-year-old granddaughter has been cancer-free for a year!” Catherine Hill, elections administrative assistant.
• “I am thankful to be able to work in an office that has so many kind and generous people, and which is located in a state that makes every day a good and different day.” Chris Johnson, executive administrative assistant.
• “I’m thankful for the passage of time…without which our restrooms would have never seen completion…without which we would be forever doomed to endure multiple daily journeys to the second floor….LOL, I think I am probably speaking for a LOT of people in my thankfulness!” Myra Rooney, campaign finance specialist.
• “I’m thankful that my parents left South Florida to start their family in Colorado, so I had the Rocky Mountains as my playground and not the Everglades.” Chris Cash, charities program manager.
• “I am thankful for my boss, Wayne.” Suzanne Staiert, deputy secretary of state.
Lynn Bartels’ response might be my favorite of all –
• “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it involves food but no gift-buying. Last year, I posted on the SOS blog a column I wrote about Thanksgiving in 1991 when I was working as a columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune.
I have plenty to be thankful for but this year I’m especially grateful for Dwight Shellman, the Secretary of State’s county support manager.
Dwight is our chain-smoking, coffee-swilling, loveable attention-to-detail guy who has been such an integral part of the risk-limiting audit our office and Colorado’s county clerks just conducted to show that the election results were accurate.
The post-election audit attracted election folks from across the country, which only added to Dwight’s 24-hour state of stress. Another SOS staffer, Ben Schler, once joked that if Dwight managed a Pizza Hut he would be outside by the dumpster on Super Bowl Sunday, smoking and muttering, “I just know we’re going to run out of dough. I just know we’re going to run out of dough.”
Even if we hadn’t done a risk-limiting audit this year, I would still be just as grateful for Dwight. As the former elections director for Pitkin County, he knows what it takes to run an election – hence his devotion to our county clerks and their staffs.
Oh, and he has a wicked sense of humor, something to be thankful for in any person.