Another election, another risk limiting audit for Colorado’s county clerks

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams watches Friday as two staffers with Denver Elections, Drake Rambke, and Stuart Clubb, indicate where ballots were pulled as part of a risk-limiting audit to ensure machines correctly tabulated the way a voter marked a ballot. (SOS photo)

For the second election in a row, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has overseen a risk-limiting audit designed to catch mistakes if they happened when ballots were tabulated.

The audit of the June 26 primary election involved 20, 10-sided dice, a variety of election officials from across the nation and Colorado county clerks excited to proclaim their results on social media.

Rudy Santos, chief deputy clerk for the Weld County clerk’s offices, watches as election judges Stacey Kjeldgaard, left, a Republican, and Lyn Nelson, a Democrat, conduct their risk-limiting audit in Weld County on Saturday. (SOS photo)

“WooHoo!! Jeffco Risk-Limiting Audit completed!! 263 (ballots) with NO discrepancies!” the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office tweeted Saturday.

“The purpose for all this is so the voters can have trust and confidence in the system,” Williams said.

“There are some people who go into denial whenever they don’t win. ‘Everybody I talked to voted for me. How can I possibly not have won?’ This is part of providing that assurance to folks.”

Some counties are still in the midst of their audits, while others completed theirs last week.

Read moreAnother election, another risk limiting audit for Colorado’s county clerks

Colorado praised for election security

From left to right, Eric Rosenbach, co-head of the Belfer Center at Harvard, Lisa Monaco, former Homeland Security adviser to President Obama, and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, discuss election security at an event earlier this month. (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation photo)

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.

Monaco agreed.

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Secretary Williams visits historic Summit County

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visits today with the Summit County Clerk & Recorder’s office, including, left, chief deputy clerk Stacey Campbell, and Clerk Kathleen Neel, center. (SOS photo)

Visiting Summit County Clerk Kathleen Neel any time of the year is a treat but in the midst of the Olympics the trip is even more special.

The sign that welcomes visitors exiting Interstate 70 has been changed from “Silverthorne” to “Goldthorne” in honor of local snowboarder Red Gerard, who won a gold medal last Saturday.

From there Williams drove to the county seat of Breckenridge. Summit County was established in 1861 as one of the Colorado Territory’s original 17 counties.

“We had a good visit,” Neel said.”He wanted to make sure we felt we are being taken care of by the Secretary of State’s office — and we do. They never make you feel like you asked a stupid question.”

Summit County Clerk Kathy Neel color codes the voter service and polling centers located in the county. (SOS photo)

Williams has made it a point since he took office in 2015 to visit with all 64 clerks in their offices to see first hand what kind of challenges they face.

Neel and her chief deputy clerk, Stacey Campbell, talked with Williams about a variety of issues, including the nation’s first-ever risk-limiting audit that was completed after the 2017 election.

In addition, they discussed the June 26 primary, which will be the first time unaffiliated voters can automatically participate without officially declaring to be a Republican or a Democrat. They will just select which ballot they want to vote.

“It is a little nerve-wracking,” Neel said, “because we’ve never done an open primary before.”

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