Secretary Williams serves on bipartisan election preparedness panel

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right,  joined other election experts  and others in Washington, D.C., to discuss “Are We Ready to Run Our Elections?” From left to right, moderator John Fortier, director of The Democracy Project, Thomas Hicks, the chair of the U.S.  Election Assistance Commission, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Secretary Williams. (NASS photo)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams recently made a trip to the nation’s capital to discuss Colorado’s progress in keeping the voting process and voter registration accessible and secure.

As far as accessibility goes, Colorado is one of the easiest states to vote in, according to a recent study by Northern Illinois University.

“We are the Burger King of running elections,” Secretary Williams said. “You can basically have it your way — vote by mail, in person … lots of different ways for people to vote and participate.”

Williams was joined by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Matthew Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, and Thomas Hicks, chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams with New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. (NASS photo)

Williams addressed concerns over cybersecurity and foreign influence as part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s event, “Are We Ready to Run Our Elections?”

The panel discussed the 2016 election and what Masterson described as a “real and concentrated effort to undermine confidence.” Williams pointed out that many Americans are still troubled by the cyber attacks and dissemination of disinformation on social media in the last national election.

Both Masterson and Hicks said their roles are to support the states to prevent and respond to security threats, as well as encourage wider participation help to ensure a safe election.

The working relationship between Homeland Security and the National Association of Secretary of States,  or NASS, has improved.  Williams, who serves on the NASS board, said in 2016 the federal agency did not know who to tell about election security threats. Now, both the states and the federal government have made a concerted effort to work together.

“The difference between then and now is the difference between night and day,” he said.

Masterson, a former EAC member, agreed, noting “the biggest change and improvement is the amount of information being shared… We are just getting regular information from states and locals. That is critical to understanding the threat, sharing information, and managing risks.”

New Mexico and Colorado both utilize risk limiting audits to ensure that voter confidence remains high in the tabulation of the election and monitor social media to respond to misinformation.

“If you believe that your vote will get counted,” Williams said, “you’re more likely to vote.”

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 county clerks prepare for — and dress for — change

The Pitkin County Clerk’s office, with the assistance of Secretary of State Wayne Williams, model hats that reflect the seasons. Left to right: Clerk Janice Vos Caudill, fall; Kelly Curry, winter; Secretary Williams, mud; Beverly Mars, spring; and Mars’ daughter, Shelley Popish, summer. (SOS photo)

How do you come up with costumes when the theme of your conference is the nebulous “change?”

Pitkin County clerk staffer Kelly Cury, with her hat reflecting winter, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, with his hat for “mud” season, take the stage as part of the Colorado County Clerks Association’s costume contest Wednesday. (SOS photo)

Well, the Pitkin County clerk and recorder’s office focused on the changing seasons in one of the most picturesque locales in Colorado. For that effort, Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill and her staff Thursday night won a costume contest at the Colorado County Clerks Association’s winter conference.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams joined the Pitkin staff in modeling hats based on the five seasons.

Yes, five.  Williams wore the hat for “mud” season, you know, “the window of time between when the ski resorts close and when the summer activities pick up again.” With melting snow, there’s lots of mud.

There even was a brief wardrobe malfunction. The string on Williams’ hat broke before the contest started, and Vos Caudill enlisted a project manager with the Colorado Department of Revenue to fix it.

“I told Wayne’s wife (Holly), ‘I hope you don’t mind us dragging him through the mud — season,'” Vos Caudill said. “Wayne was so much fun.”

Read moreColorado’s county clerks prepare for — and dress for — change

Colorado’s state elections director rises to NASED president

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and his elections director, Judd Choate, in Washington, D.C. (SOS photo)

Colorado’s state elections director, Judd Choate, was sworn in Thursday night as president of the National Association of State Election Directors.

When administering the oath, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talked about Choate’s unrelenting commitment to his beloved University of Kansas basketball team. Williams assured onlookers that Choate would apply that same passion toward his leadership of the organization and its goal for elections excellence.

Among those in the crowd: Matt Masterson, one of three commissioners with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

“Thanks to the leadership of Secretary Williams and Judd Choate,  Colorado is a national leader in elections,” Masterson said. “As president of the State Election Directors, Judd will have a platform to lead and share the great work done in Colorado.”

The organization, referred to as Nass-ed, holds its winter conference in Washington, D.C., at the same time the National Association of Secretaries of State meets.

“Election directors can adopt policies to increase voter turnout,” Choate said. “I hope to use my year as president to encourage the adoption of these policies.”