Secretary Williams addresses “this new primary we’re all so worried about”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is flanked by Pam Cirbo and Carol Waller before the start of the Cherry Creek Republican Women’s lunch on Tuesday. (SOS photo)

For the first time ever, county clerks will mail primary ballots to unaffiliated voters, a measure that is causing consternation statewide and keeping Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams busy on the speakers’ circuit.

In December, he spoke to the League of Women Voters in La Plata County.

Last week, Williams addressed the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s legislative committee about the impacts of Proposition 108, which voters approved in 2016. He’ll be back at the chamber next week speaking to a larger group on the same topic.

On Tuesday, he spoke to the Cherry Creek Republican Women. When member Mary Wenke introduced Williams, she said he was going to talk about “this new primary we’re all so worried about.”

Read moreSecretary Williams addresses “this new primary we’re all so worried about”

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

Secretary Williams talks dollars and sense to JBC

Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks with lawmakers and members of the Joint Budget Committee Tuesday before a hearing on the department’s budget. Left to right: Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction; Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley; Secretary Williams; Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud; and JBC Chairwoman Millie Hamner, D-Dillon. (SOS photo)

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams highlighted the office’s achievements and challenges when he presented his budget requests to the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday.

“We work very hard to make sure we provide the services that Colorado expects and deserves and our paying for with their fees,” he said. “I’m proud that we are able to do that with business fees that are among the lowest in the nation.

Secretary Wayne Williams, the SOS’ budget director, Brad Lang, and Rep. Susan Beckman, R-Littleton, at Tuesday’s Joint Budget Committee hearing. (SOS photo)

“As the state grows, as our processes change, we need to keep pace with that. We need not to be caught napping and waiting and our budget anticipates that.”

He noted the office is working on an information campaign to educate voters about Colorado’s first open primary next June, when unaffiliated voters will receive a ballot and must decide whether to vote the Democratic or Republican ticket.

Voters last year approved that measure with the passage of Proposition 108 and Williams has been on a speaking tour, explaining it to Colorado voters. He will address the League of Women Voters in Durango on Saturday.

He told the JBC that Colorado has just completed the first ever in the nation risk limiting audit, which is an audit of the state’s elections based on mathematical algorithms.

“That provides us with a statistically significant probability that the state’s elections systems correctly tabulated Coloradans ballots,” Williams said.

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Thankful thoughts this Thanksgiving

Local, state and federal election officials as well as election activists and observers, gather for a group shot at the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder’s election warehouse on Nov. 17, 2017. The participants, including Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Arapahoe Clerk Matt Crane, helped pull ballots in preparation for the county’s ballot tabulation. (Arapahoe County photo)

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.

Catherine Hill’s granddaughter, L.C. Cassandra. L.C. means Love Child. Her right kidney was removed in May 2016 because of a tumor taking 70 percent of it. She had 13 chemo treatments.

• “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 –

Dwight Shellman, SOS county support manager, with all his essentials for the first statewide risk-limiting audit. (SOS photo)

• “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.

Enjoy Thanksgiving, dear readers!”

A roll of the dice and off goes Colorado to audit elections in a new way

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams explains what’s next after multi-colored 10-sided dice were used Friday to establish a “seed” to randomly select ballots for each county to audit. (SOS photo/Judd Choate)

A process to audit Colorado’s elections in a different manner drew national attention Friday when participants at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office plucked names from Rockies and Broncos baseball caps to see who would roll 20 colored 10-sided dice. The numbers were used to come up with a “seed” to randomly select ballots from the Nov. 7 election for the counties to audit.

From left, U.S. Election Assistance Commission chairman  Matt Masterson, Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane and Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall wait for dice to be rolled, the first step in randomly selecting ballots for each county to audit during the RLA. (SOS photo)

The light-hearted ceremony kicked off work that began in 2009 when the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation requiring every county after every election to create a risk-limiting audit, a procedure that provides strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is right and has a high probability of correcting a wrong outcome.

“It was an incredibly successful first effort,” said the Secretary of State’s Dwight Shellman, the county support manager.  “I’m really proud of our team and of all the county clerks. We are already in the process of working with the clerks and interested stakeholders to collect lessons learned to make the process even better in the future.”

The Secretary of State’s office will release a report Monday on the first steps of the audit.

Read moreA roll of the dice and off goes Colorado to audit elections in a new way