Here’s Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ version of spring break: Visited nine county clerks. Checked out five newspaper offices. Attended three Go Code Colorado competitions. Spoke at one Club 20 event.
That night, Williams ate dinner in Durango with La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker — he visited her office Friday afternoon, too — and by the next morning he was ready to hit the road to talk with three other county clerks.
“Last year I met with all the new county clerks in their offices and this year and I am continuing to go meet with county clerks,” Williams said. “By going to their offices I get a better understanding of their set-ups and their challenges to ensure we are helping meet their needs.”
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.
“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 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.
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.”
Logan County has gone to drive-by voting, with Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon installing a new ballot drop box that allows voters to pull up and drop off their ballots.
Bacon also got the OK from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office to make it a “multi-use box” so that county residents can drop off their motor-vehicle registrations.
Other county clerks also use 24-hour ballot boxes, which under secretary of state rules must be monitored by surveillance cameras with the data being preserved for 25 months. It is illegal to drop off more than 10 ballots at a time, and the outside of the envelopes must be signed by the voter in order to be counted, state elections director Judd Choate said.
According to the Sterling-Journal Advocate, Bacon also reached out to the other county departments, with Treasurer Patty Bartlett believing the box would be useful for receiving tax payments. Bacon said residents can drop off correspondence for any county office, such as a letter to the county commissioners.
“Whatever is in there,'” Bacon told the newspaper, “we’ll make sure it gets to whatever county office it needs to.”
Here’s a look at ballot-box practices in some other counties, per their clerks or election officials:
Secretary of State Wayne Williams gave county clerks in southern Colorado an update Tuesday on a lawsuit the state’s leading small-business group filed against his office, saying money collected through business filing fees shouldn’t be used to pay for election costs.
The clerks asked Williams to draw up a summary they can present to their commissioners on the fiscal impact of the lawsuit filed by the National Federation of Independent Business. A Denver judge, who heard arguments in the case last week, is expected to make a ruling within two months.
Clerks present at the conference were, left to right, Melanie Woodward of Alamosa County, Lawrence Gallegos of Conejos, Tiffany Parker of La Plata, Debbi Green of Park, Krystal Brown of Teller, Secretary Williams, Lori Mitchell of Chaffee, Kelley Camper of Custer, Cindy Hill of Rio Grande, Patti Nickell of Bent, Carla Gomez of Saguache, Nancy Cruz of Huerfano, Peach Vigil of Las Animas and Kathy Simillion of Gunnison.
Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz wasn’t in the shot — he had stepped out to take a call when it was snapped.