Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, widely regarded as one of the best election chiefs in the country, on Tuesday lost his re-election bid to Democrat Jena Griswold.
Here is the letter he penned to the staff at 12:20 this morning:
By the time you read this in the morning, most of you will be aware that the administration of the 2018 general election went extraordinarily well. We had record turnout and voters across the state were able to easily participate and our election processes ran wonderfully.
Unfortunately for me, the results in my election were not what I desired. Jena and I spoke last night and plan to meet soon to discuss the transition that will occur on January 8.
Today I’m visiting with Brazilian election observers in Colorado Springs so I will be out of the office. I’ll be back on Thursday to prepare for the risk limiting audit.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to work with you for the past four years. Together we have built the best Secretary of State office in the nation. I’m proud of all we’ve done as a team and wish the very best for each of you during the next term.
Visitors from Hungary and India visited Secretary of State Wayne Williams today to learn more about how Colorado elections are run.
With the midterm election Tuesday, the international guests were eager to ask questions about the process. Among the Hungarians were members of FIDESZ party, the ruling party in Hungary for the last eight years, parliament members, and communications directors for various offices of the Hungarian government.
“Mail ballots are strange to us, we don’t have that in Hungary,” one guest said.
Williams said mail ballots make voting more accessible.
Another question: “Would online voting make young people vote more?”
Williams said he doesn’t trust the security of it yet, but he did explain how some military and overseas voters are able to vote online, through an encrypted system.
“Some people don’t believe someone who works on a submarine should be allowed to vote,” he said. “We do.”
Big hearts and some chicken goes a long way, as a group of election staffers with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office found out when they volunteered at Judi’s House.
Minerva Padron, a voter registration coordinator, is also a bilingual grief counselor at Judi’s House, a nonprofit devoted to providing care for grieving children and their families. It was founded by former Denver Broncos quarterback Brian Greise and his wife. Padron visits middle schools in the Denver metro area and holds “grief groups,” group counseling sessions for students who have lost someone close to them.
Deputy elections director Hilary Rudy jumped at the idea and sent an email to elections staffers asking if they could donate time or money to the cause. She said it wasn’t hard to find volunteers or donations because a lot of people were interested.
“I tried to make it clear I wasn’t pressuring them given my position,” she joked.
Once they had a group together and donations, the group bought deli chicken, mashed potatoes, fruit salad and rolls and served it to the 60 or so children and families at Judi’s House last Thursday.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his operation were praised during a recent cybersecurity initiative in Northern California, one of a series of cybersecurity events the Colorado SOS has been invited to participate in.
Eric Rosenbach, co-head of the Belfer Center at Harvard, moderated a discussion on election security between Secretary Williams and Lisa Monaco, who served as the Homeland Security adviser to President Obama.
“Your team in Colorado is very good, essentially recognized as one of the best in the nation,” Rosenbach told Williams.
Check out the video from Secretary Williams’ day on the eastern plains here.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams shared his high school experience when honoring two Colorado high schools on Wednesday for its effort in registering juniors and seniors to vote.
Students at Eads and Kit Carson high schools were winners of the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award for Outstanding Voter Registration Efforts from the Secretary of State’s office.
Williams told a story he often tells to groups of young people. His high school in Virginia didn’t have a graduating class in 1959 because the town leaders closed the school rather than follow orders to integrate it.
Twenty years later when Williams attended Warren County High School, the leadership hadn’t improved much.
“I moved there and didn’t like the way the leadership was going so I got involved and I was 16 years old. I got all my friends from the high school and we stood outside all the polling places and we completely changed the leadership for that county for the first time in 100 years,” he said.
“So you can have an impact, even without having the ability to vote.”
Kit Carson seniors Jaxon Crawford and Bradley Johnson worked with the group Inspire Colorado to register 100 percent of the senior class at Kit Carson High.
Not only did Jaxon and Bradley make the effort at their school, but they went to their rival high school, Eads, to get the juniors and seniors there to register.
“I think that all of us adults can learn a little bit about that bipartisan spirit, that we can engage with the people we compete with,” Ryan Drysdale, Inspire Colorado’s program coordinator said.
The award is named after Eliza Pickrell Routt, wife of Gov. John Long Routt after whom Routt County is named. She was the first woman to register to vote in Colorado.
Ouray High School in Ouray and Peak to Peak High School in Lafayette will receive the same honors later this month. Last year, Yuma High School and Eaglecrest High School were the recipients of this award.
To win, 85 percent or more of eligible students must be registered to vote.
Williams also praised the county clerks that serve those two high schools, saying, “Their purpose really is to try to make it easy for you to participate in the process and that’s what we try to do, but we need you to step up and make those decisions.”
Pat Daugherty, Cheyenne county clerk and recorder, spoke briefly to Kit Carson students about her office and how grateful she is for the help she receives from various students and teachers on field trips.
“It’s as hard as showing up and letting somebody know you want to get involved,” she joked. “We gladly accept youth judges in the elections.”
Williams left the seniors with praise for their accomplishments and advice as they set off to their next chapter.
“Take that effort you’ve made and keep going with it as you head off into the world.”