Go Code Colorado: another year of data-driven competition

Simon Tafoya, the policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, at the Go Code Colorado challenge kickoff Wednesday night in Denver (SOS photo)

Colorado’s funkiest and most fun data contest — Go Code Colorado — kicked off Wednesday night, marking the fifth year that the Secretary of State’s office has invited creative minds to use public information to build a product that helps businesses.

“We work hard to make data available and usable for Colorado businesses,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in his opening remarks.

Previous winners have developed a range of projects. One helped small farmers locate farmers markets and price information. Another created a platform for companies to connect with potential employees based on personality match.

Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, heaped praise on the Secretary of State’s office and the award-winning Go Code Colorado program during last year’s competition.

“This is, in my opinion, the epitome of how we should be thinking about government moving forward,” he said. “We should be thinking about how to take the assets and the innovation of the new industries that are popping up around tech and see how that expertise and that talent solves some of the problems that maybe government can’t do on its own.”

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Former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire honored

Former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire and others admire the award she received Saturday from Secretary of State Wayne Williams. From left to right, Jean Danford, Shirley Kula, Ingmire and Bob Kula at the Kulas’ home in Fort Morgan. (SOS photo)

Colorado  Secretary of State Wayne Williams had an award to hand out to former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire but he  wasn’t sure when and how to present it to her so she would get the recognition she deserved.

Ingmire unwittingly solved the problem when she asked the secretary to speak to the Morgan County Republican Women at their brunch Aug. 11 in Fort Morgan. She is club president.

Williams talked about the office and the services it provides for elections, business registrations, notary training and such.

Former Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire and Secretary of State Wayne Williams with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award. (SOS photo)

He also pointed out that when he was the El Paso County clerk and recorder and Ingmire held the same position in Morgan County, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler appointed them to a group to study election equipment. Williams continued the same committee when he became secretary of state in 2015, and Ingmire, although no longer a county clerk, agreed to serve.

“That’s why I was excited to come here, not just to visit you, but to give this award to Connie,” Williams said.

He then presented Ingmire with the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award. Each secretary of state is allowed to give out five NASS awards annually  to a person or organization who has made a contribution to the office. Williams so far in his tenure has awarded four.

Club members applauded as Ingmire looked stunned. Her sister, Pat Samples-Ehrlich, had been tipped off and was in attendance.

“I was very surprised and very pleased,” Ingmire said afterward. “I’ve always considered Wayne Williams a wonderful state official. He does a lot to benefit the citizens of Colorado, as well as the Colorado County Clerks Association.”

Read moreFormer Morgan County Clerk Connie Ingmire honored

The evolution of Maria Elena Ramirez

Secretary of State Wayne Williams with staffer Maria Ramirez, who is retiring effective Oct. 31. (SOS photo)
Secretary of State Wayne Williams with staffer Maria Elena Ramirez, who is retiring effective Oct. 31. (SOS photo)

Maria Elena Ramirez was, in her own words, “a welfare mom” who lived in public housing and received food stamps and a variety of other government benefits.

Until one day when she decided it was time to go in a different direction. She applied for a job with the state of Colorado, and interviewed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on July 14, 1999.

That was the same day Secretary of State Vikki Buckley, another welfare mom who worked herself out of poverty, died of a heart attack.

Ramirez began working for the Secretary of State on  Aug. 2, 1999.

“I learned I could support me and my kids,” Ramirez said. “I became independent.”

Countless calls — and six secretaries of state later — she is calling it quits. Today is her last day. Ramirez has four children, ages 31 to 24, and five grandchildren, but she’s not stepping down to spend more time with them, at least not right away.

“I turned 50 last year,” she said. “It’s time to do something for me. So I’m heading to the East Coast.”

Read moreThe evolution of Maria Elena Ramirez

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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National election guru says Colorado’s “ACE is the place”

Mindy Moretti with electionline.org. She said it was the only photo she could find on deadline.
Mindy Moretti with electionline.org. She said it was the only photo she could find on deadline.

The Secretary of State’s innovative election-data gathering system, Accountability in Colorado Elections or ACE, is the focus of an article in electionlineWeekly — the must read online publication for folks in the election business.

The piece opens with a very Colorado angle:

“At 14,400 feet, Mount Elbert — part of the Sawatch Mountain Range — is the highest peak in Colorado. If you add up and pile up all the data the Colorado secretary of state’s office collects each election cycle, it could rival Mount Elbert for height.”

The article was written by Mindy Moretti, a writer and editor for electionline.org, which bill bills itself as “the nation’s the nation’s only nonpartisan, no-advocacy clearinghouse for election reform news and information.”

Moretti interviewed Judd Choate, the state elections director for the Colorado Secretary of State, who told her: “We collect so much information every day. We just needed to figure out a way to give that information to the people who may find it interesting. This is an effort to bridge the gap between what is officially available and the ease with which you can actually see it.”

Colorado journalists raved about ACE during two workshops last fall showing them how it works.

Read moreNational election guru says Colorado’s “ACE is the place”