Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, but he certainly dressed like someone who would eventually live more than half of his life in the West.
“My wife Holly and I wish everyone the best that Christmas and the holidays have to offer,” Williams said. “We’re thrilled to be able to spend it with our four grown children, one daughter-in-law, and our granddaughter.”
The Secretary of State’s office will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but you can still access most operations online, from updating your voter registration to establishing or renewing your business registration.
“While you’re visiting family, it’s a great time to remind folks to register or update your voter registration,” Williams said
“Colorado is the state that has the highest percentage of registered voters in the United States of America,” Williams told students, which resulted in the crowd erupting with cheers.
Currently, there are 3.2 million active voters in Colorado, according to figures collected by the Secretary of State’s office through August. September’s numbers are expected to be released next week.
Michael Ankner, 2018’s American Legion Eagle Scout of the year and an Inspire student leader at East, told his peers about his recent trip to Mongolia and that the ability to vote there is scarce.
“I want you to know how important it is to participate in our democratic processes and how it really does help improve the way our government functions and makes things better for everyone,” Ankner said.
The National Association of Secretaries of State in 2012 designated September as National Voter Registration Month with the fourth Tuesday in September set as National Voter Registration Day to encourage voter participation and increase awareness about state requirements and deadlines for voting.
Williams challenged the students to register, enticing them with the Eliza Pickrell Routt award, given to high schools where at least 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.
“One of the things I want to do is come back here when you reach the 85 percent of registered seniors because if you do that, you will join a number of other high schools in getting the Eliza Pickrell Routt award,” Williams said. “I challenge you to reach that level. It is how we make a difference in this world.”
Colorado Secretary of State efforts to boost voter registration include:
Text to vote. Eligible Coloradans can simply text the word “Colorado” or “CO” to “2Vote” (28683) on their smartphones, and then open the link to the SOS online voter registration and election information site.
Online registration. Colorado in 2010 became the fourth state to allow online voter registration and www.govotecolorado.com has processed more than 2 million transactions.
High School registration. The office hands out the Eliza Pickrell Routt award to high schools where at least 85 percent of eligible seniors have registered or preregistered to vote.
If you have been on Facebook in the past month, there’s a good chance the above graphic showed up on your news feed.
Facebook reminded users of the upcoming primary election on June 26 and encouraged users to register to vote or share that they are registered.
The impact was significant —
“More people registered and more people updated their registration on Tuesday, June 12th than did so on Election Day,” said Judd Choate, the state election director for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.
This was the first year unaffiliated voters were allowed to automatically participate. Secretary Williams launched the UChooseCO campaign to inform voters about the new process. Williams handed out wooden U’s for people to decorate and help spread the word. The UChooseCO campaign has a web page, Facebook page, a Twitter account and its own hashtag, #UChooseCO.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams this week presented a voter registration award to seniors at STRIVE Prep – Excel High School, telling them it’s important for them to be involved because “you’ve got more at stake than anybody else.”
Secretary Williams recognized four students, Brisa Aguilar-Velazquez, Samantha Mejia, Sandra Gonzalez-Terrones and Lesli Guzman-Realzola, who pioneered the effort in getting their peers registered to vote as part of their senior seminar project.
They managed to get 95 percent of the senior class registered, which qualified the entire class to receive the Eliza Pickrell Routt award. It is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.
The Secretary of State’s office partners with Inspire Colorado, a nonprofit organization that helps young people register to vote. Inspire worked with Exel’s director of college access, Caty Husbands, to register eligible students to vote.
Excel Principal Ben Lewis reminded his students of the importance of voting.
“I’m so proud of you seniors for making this happen. Civic engagement is extremely important,” he said.
“And as you also know, there are a lot of problems in our government today. One of the ways we can solve those things is by exercising our voice and voting is one of the ways you can do that.”
Excel Prep was founded five years ago and shares a campus and extracurricular activities with North High School.
There are 11 STRIVE campuses around Denver and three of those campuses are high schools, including Excel. STRIVE Prep was founded 11 years ago under the belief that students from all backgrounds deserve a college preparatory education regardless of race, economic circumstance or previous academic achievement, according to its website. Of the 321 students, 98 percent are bilingual in English and Spanish and 91 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
The hallways of the high school were decorated with banners from nearly every university and, rightfully so — 92 percent of the senior class that was honored with the Eliza Pickrell Routt award has been accepted into four-year colleges.
“Thank you for striving and thriving now that you’ve got this award,” Secretary Williams told the students.
“If all you do is get this award, it didn’t do any good. For those of you who have registered to vote, you have to participate in the process. This is your opportunity to play a role.”
Check out the video from Secretary Williams’ day on the eastern plains here.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams shared his high school experience when honoring two Colorado high schools on Wednesday for its effort in registering juniors and seniors to vote.
Students at Eads and Kit Carson high schools were winners of the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award for Outstanding Voter Registration Efforts from the Secretary of State’s office.
Williams told a story he often tells to groups of young people. His high school in Virginia didn’t have a graduating class in 1959 because the town leaders closed the school rather than follow orders to integrate it.
Twenty years later when Williams attended Warren County High School, the leadership hadn’t improved much.
“I moved there and didn’t like the way the leadership was going so I got involved and I was 16 years old. I got all my friends from the high school and we stood outside all the polling places and we completely changed the leadership for that county for the first time in 100 years,” he said.
“So you can have an impact, even without having the ability to vote.”
Kit Carson seniors Jaxon Crawford and Bradley Johnson worked with the group Inspire Colorado to register 100 percent of the senior class at Kit Carson High.
Not only did Jaxon and Bradley make the effort at their school, but they went to their rival high school, Eads, to get the juniors and seniors there to register.
“I think that all of us adults can learn a little bit about that bipartisan spirit, that we can engage with the people we compete with,” Ryan Drysdale, Inspire Colorado’s program coordinator said.
The award is named after Eliza Pickrell Routt, wife of Gov. John Long Routt after whom Routt County is named. She was the first woman to register to vote in Colorado.
Ouray High School in Ouray and Peak to Peak High School in Lafayette will receive the same honors later this month. Last year, Yuma High School and Eaglecrest High School were the recipients of this award.
To win, 85 percent or more of eligible students must be registered to vote.
Williams also praised the county clerks that serve those two high schools, saying, “Their purpose really is to try to make it easy for you to participate in the process and that’s what we try to do, but we need you to step up and make those decisions.”
Pat Daugherty, Cheyenne county clerk and recorder, spoke briefly to Kit Carson students about her office and how grateful she is for the help she receives from various students and teachers on field trips.
“It’s as hard as showing up and letting somebody know you want to get involved,” she joked. “We gladly accept youth judges in the elections.”
Williams left the seniors with praise for their accomplishments and advice as they set off to their next chapter.
“Take that effort you’ve made and keep going with it as you head off into the world.”