Secretary Williams visits Jackson, Grand county clerks

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams visits with Jackson County Clerk Hayle Johnson and her staff in Walden on Monday. In the foreground is Johnson, who is standing, then Deputy Clerk Margaret Caulk and Deputy Clerk Tammi Gonzales behind the computer screen. (SOS photo)

Monday was the first day that county clerks could mail ballots to in-state voters, which made for interesting visits when Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams stopped in Jackson and Grand counties that day.

The number of active voters in scenic Jackson County is only 983, which is why they hand count their ballots, Clerk Hayle Johnson said.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene loaded boxes with ballots into the back of a truck to deliver to the post office. (SOS photo)

The secretary then headed south to equally beautiful Grand County, where Clerk Sara Rosene, her staff and election judges loaded boxes filled with ballots into two large county vehicles in a race to get them to the Post Office.

“As someone who used to be a clerk and recorder, I know the work that goes into getting ballots to the voters,” said Williams, who worked in El Paso County before being elected secretary of state in 2014.

All clerks in Colorado are mailing a record number of ballots for this election because it’s the first time in history unaffiliated voters can automatically participate in the primary elections. In the past, those voters did not receive primary ballots unless they affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party.

The number of active Republican and unaffiliated voters in Grand is nearly the same, 4,299 to 4,148, respectively, with Democrats trailing at 2,415 voters. But Republicans rule the roost in Jackson, with 677 active GOP voters, while there are 196 unaffiliated voters and 99 Democrats. Both counties have small numbers of third-party voters, who won’t be participating in the primary because they have no contested races.

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Grand County: bullets and ballots

Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene, chief deputy clerk Patty Brown and Secretary of State Wayne Williams outside a voter drop box in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Grand County Clerk Sara Rosene, chief deputy clerk Patty Brown and Secretary of State Wayne Williams outside a voter drop box in Hot Sulphur Springs.

Talk about the Wild West.

On July 4, 1883, four masked men gunned down Grand County’s clerk and recorder and two of its commissioners. One commissioner managed to get off a shot and killed an attacker. When the mask was removed, it turned out to be the third county commissioner.

The other suspected killers were believed to be the county sheriff, undersheriff and the undersheriff’s brother, although no one was tried for the crime.

What led to the attack was moving the county seat from Hot Sulphur Springs to Grand Lake the previous year. The commissioners who were ambushed supported the move; the commissioner with the mask wanted to stay in Hot Sulphur Springs. Several years after the shooting, the seat was moved back to Hot Sulphur Springs.

The current county clerk, Sara Rosene, provided that history when asked why Hot Sulphur Springs, pop. 639, was the county seat rather than, say, Granby, pop. 1,791.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ visited Hot Sulphur Springs last week when he met with the county clerk and checked out the election operation.

“It’s so nice to have the secretary of state here,” said Rosene, who has been the clerk for 25 years. “We’re so intertwined with that office.”

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