Colorado’s county clerks face unique challenges this year

COLORADO SPRINGS — 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 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.”

Secretary of State Wayne 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.”

That assessment was backed up by two nationally recognized election experts at the conference: Commissioner Matt Masterson with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and David Becker, founder and executive director the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

“Colorado is at the forefront of ensuring that voting is as easy as possible, while also protecting the integrity of the ballot,” Becker said. “Colorado voters have among the most choices on how to cast their ballot, and should have the most confidence that their ballot will be counted accurately, thanks to the hard work of Colorado’s state and county election officials.”

In addition to Williams, the clerks praised the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division. The legislature in 2014 and 2015 provided money to update the state’s out-of-date equipment that handles titling and registration and driver’s licenses. The project is called Colorado DRIVES or the Colorado Driver License, Record, Identification and Vehicle Enterprise Solutions.

The transition to the new equipment is slated for August, and at the conference clerk staffers participated in a hands-on academy to show them how the new equipment will work, and revenue director Michael Hartman addressed the clerks.

Clerks praised the conference organizers, including the association’s elected officers and its executive director, Pam Anderson, the former clerk and recorder in Jefferson County.  The clerks also hold a summer conference.

Also during the conference, clerks participated in a costume contest based on the conference theme of “change.” The Pitkin County clerk’s office came in first by modeling hats based on the five seasons — in the mountains you have to put up with “mud” months. Williams wore the mud hat, while Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill’s hat represented fall.

Also for the “change” theme, clerks and their staffs were invited to take videos of themselves dancing to or lip syncing to Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Would Do You Good.”

Alamosa County Clerk & Recorder Melanie Woodward commented about the conference, “What drew my interest was the big marketing plan that will be directed towards unaffiliated voters. We need to do as much as we can to educate the voters. The more information we can get out the better. It will definitely benefit our office also!”

Caption: New Conejos County Clerk and Recorder Nathan Ruybal, right, and retiring Conejos County Clerk and Recorder Lawrence Gallegos, left, join Secretary of State Wayne Williams./Courtesy photo by Lynn Bartels