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”

Kathy Packer packs it up after spending 31 years at Colorado Secretary of State

Colorado Secretary of State employee Kathy Packer retired today after more than 30 years working for the office. From left to right, Deputy IT director Jeff Oliver, IT director Trevor Timmons, Packer and Secretary Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)
Colorado Secretary of State employee Kathy Packer retired today after more than 30 years working for the office. From left to right, Deputy IT director Jeff Oliver, IT director Trevor Timmons, Packer and Secretary Wayne Williams. (SOS photo)

By Julia Sunny and Lynn Bartels

When Kathy Packer started working at the age of 18, Dick Lamm was governor of Colorado, Federico Peña was mayor of Denver and Secretary of State Natalie Meyer was her boss.

Kathy Packer, who turns 50 next month, has worked for the Colorado Secretary of State's office since she was 18. She is retiring effective today. (SOS picture)
Kathy Packer, who turns 50 next month, has worked for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office since she was 18.

“Natalie was a very classy, professional lady, always very poised and put together,” Packer recalled.

Packer would go on to work for seven more secretaries of state, including the current officeholder, Wayne Williams, before deciding to call it quits.

Her last day was today, June 30. Her co-workers held a party to celebrate her 31½-year-career in state government, all at the Secretary of State’s office.

“She’s a people person, which means she has a customer-centric approach,” said Trevor Timmons, the director of information technology, where Packer has worked in recent years. “She is awesome.”

Read moreKathy Packer packs it up after spending 31 years at Colorado Secretary of State

Secretary of state turns to Colorado legislature after court ruling

The Secretary of State's is looking for a legislative solution to a campaign finance ruling.
The Secretary of State’s is looking for a legislative solution to a campaign finance ruling.

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s editorial board weighed in the problem.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office will ask for legislative help on a campaign finance issue after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused its request to “execute us or set us free.”

In two separate rulings, the most recent one last week, the court has concluded that Colorado’s regulatory framework for setting up what is known as an issue committee is so cumbersome it violates free speech and is unconstitutional. But the rulings — which cover activities under four secretaries of state — apply only in the context of the two cases that were filed.

“The secretary is better served seeking help from the institution best equipped in our governmental system to solve the problem – the Colorado legislature,” the three-member panel of judges wrote in its March 2 decision.

Voters in 2002 approved a constitutional amendment that set the contribution-and-expenditure threshold for issue committees at $200. An issue committee is any group of two or more people formed to support or oppose a measure that has collected or spent more than $200 in its effort.

One legislative proposal under discussion would still require issue committees to register with the Secretary of State once $200 had been raised, but detailed reporting wouldn’t kick in until $5,000 is raised.

“The devil’s in the details,” Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said, when asked what his group thought of the suggestion.

The most recent court case involves the Coalition for Secular Government, which formed to advocate against various statewide “personhood” issues on the ballot that critics said would ban abortion. Its activities triggered issue-committee reporting requirements under Colorado law, and the group was fined for not filing timely reports.

Read moreSecretary of state turns to Colorado legislature after court ruling

Hey, hey, Paula, the state’s elections office will be missing you

Paula Barnett's last day at the Colorado Secretary of State's office is Friday. She is going to work for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell.
Paula Barnett’s last day at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office is Friday. She is going to work for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell.

By Keara Brosnan

Paula Barnett, a much respected staffer with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, is taking her elections experience to Chaffee County in order to be near her family.

Barnett’s last day with the state is Friday. She’ll begin working for Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell on March 14.

“It will be fun to be with my daughter and her husband and her two beautiful daughters in the mountains,” said Barnett, who will live in Buena Vista and commute to Salida.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams understands her sentiment.

“As our first grandchild will be born later this month,” he said, “I certainly appreciate Paula’s desire to be near family.”

Barnett got her start in the Lincoln County clerk and recorder’s office’s,  and eventually was elected clerk.

“I sort of grew into it,” Barnett said. “Living in Hugo, which was a very small community and very grass roots, I got very involved in elections and the political process and caucuses.”

Read moreHey, hey, Paula, the state’s elections office will be missing you

Secretary Wayne Williams shows how easy it is to register to vote in Colorado

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson and Secretary of State Wayne Williams celebrate National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday. (Lynn Bartels)
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson and Secretary of State Wayne Williams celebrate National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday. (Lynn Bartels)

Hats off to Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who spent a chunk of Tuesday talking about why voting matters and how easy it is to register to vote in Colorado, and then topped it off by starring in a voter-video set to  “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).”

Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, where the importance of voting was stressed at events throughout the country.

When Williams served as El Paso County clerk and recorder, two school board races in 2013 were decided by a single vote, he said at various events.

Williams left his Colorado Springs house early Tuesday to arrive at CBS Denver at 6:15 a.m. He capped off the day at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in historic Five Points where a voter-registration event was hosted by Black Women for Positive Change, an international group. The chairman of the Colorado chapter is Patricia Duncan, whose late sister, Secretary of State Vikki Buckley, died in office in 1999.

“Colorado makes it extraordinarily easy to vote,” Williams said, asking library participants to get out their smart phones.

Read moreSecretary Wayne Williams shows how easy it is to register to vote in Colorado