Mea culpa: the uproar over Colorado voter data rolls

“We applaud Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams for turning over only that data that is legally releasable, and dismiss as politically opportunistic calls from some that he should have turned his back to the commission’s request entirely.” –The Grand Junction Sentinel

Hundreds of Coloradans have called, e-mailed or written to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office in recent days, urging Secretary Wayne Williams to refuse to turn over public voter roll data to a commission appointed by President Donald Trump.

Had Williams announced he had no intention of doing so, he might have been a hero to some judging from the angry comments we have received. He also would have been breaking the law and setting, he believes, a dangerous precendent.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right, addresses the National Association of Secretaries of State last week in Indianapolis. To his left is California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. (Photo credit: Jonathan Hawkins Photography for NASS)

“Colorado law does not permit the secretary of state, county election officials or anyone else to say, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people I like,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to my friends,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people in my party,’” Williams said at a news conference last week.

“That is not a provision of Colorado law, nor do you want to put such a provision in place where only favored people can receive that information.”

In the meantime, Williams sponsored a resolution unanimously adopted this week at the National Association of Secretaries of States’ summer conference in Indianapolis. It reiterated that states are in charge of elections.

The furor over the White House’s request was felt from sea to shining sea, but I feel guilty about the depth of the angst in Colorado.

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Colorado’s Wayne Williams, other secretaries of state, discuss request for voter data

Secretaries of state, including Wayne Williams of Colorado, right, answer questions from the media Friday regarding a White House commission letter requesting public voter data. The National Association of Secretaries of State is meeting in Indianapolis for its summer conference.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said today at the National Secretaries of State summer conference that election officials work hard to make it easy to vote but difficult to commit voter fraud.

Williams was one of five secretaries of state from both parties who fielded questions from the media about a request from a White House presidential commission for voter data — a move that has set off a firestorm nationally and in Colorado. State law requires Williams to provide information that is public under the law, and for decades political parties and the press, campaigns and candidates have received voter records.

“You don’t want a secretary of state saying ‘OK, I’m not going to give the information to my political opponents, I’ll just give it to my friends,” he told reporters covering the NASS conference in Indianapolis.

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Secretary Williams hands out Enstrom’s toffee, goodwill in Taiwan

Secretaries of State Wayne Williams of Colorado, Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, Tom Schedler of Louisiana, Chern-chyi Chen, the deputy director general of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Secretary Mac Warner of West Virginia during this week’s visit to the Asian country.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams handed out tins of Enstrom Candies this week when visiting Taiwanese dignitaries as part of an international trade mission to Asia.

Mountains are featured on one of the tins of Enstrom ‘s toffee.

Williams is the western region vice president for the National Association of Secretaries of State. He was joined on the trip by three other secretaries of state: Tom Schedler of Louisiana, Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky and Mac Warner of West Virginia.

“The challenge with bringing Enstrom’s is that my fellow secretaries are tempted to eat it instead of giving it as a gift to our hosts,” Williams joked.

The Grand Junction-based company is known for its mouth-watering toffee. The candy is always a hit on Valentine’s Day at the Colorado Capitol.

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Secretary Wayne Williams plays pivotal role in voter-confidence discussion

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, third from left, was one of six panelists to address voter confidence during the National Association of Secretaries of State winter conference in Washington, D.C. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams believes the hyper scrutiny over elections these days can actually be a good thing so officials have time to make changes before the next general election to increase voter confidence in the system.

“People need to have confidence that their election officials are doing everything they can to maintain the integrity of the election,” Williams said. “We have to be able to respond, to say, ‘We hear the  problem, we’re addressing it.  And we’re trying to make sure the process has that integrity so that people believe their vote is going to count.'”

Williams served as one of six members on a panel during the National Associations of Secretaries of State winter conference last week in Washington, D.C., that examined the public’s trust and confidence in elections.

“I can say without question this was the best run federal election I have ever seen,” said panelist David Becker, the executive director for the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

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Or you can call Jenny at 867-5309

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and White House aide Billy Kirkland today at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference. (SOS picture)

How’s this for brave? A Trump administration official addressing the nation’s secretaries of state today gave out his personal cell phone number.

The only other person I know who regularly hands out his cell phone number is my boss, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who orders business cards by the bushel and gives them to, oh everyone.

Billy Kirkland, the deputy director for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, was part of a panel “State Priorities in the New Trump Administration” during the National Association of Secretaries of State winter conference in Washington, D.C.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, the former NASS president, offered a bit of advice: If you have questions about elections, hackers, cyber security, ask us. And Kirkland offered his number.*

Schedler and others, including Williams, are miffed with the outgoing administration’s 11th-hour decision to classify election equipment as “critical infrastructure.”

“No one ever asked us how an election was run,” Schedler complained, noting election equipment is not connected to the Internet. “How do you attack something in cyberspace that’s not there.”

Others on the panel included Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, the current NASS president, and  representatives from the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislators and the National Association of Attorneys General.

*No, I’m not giving out the number.