COLORADO SPRINGS — Running two elections is always a challenge for Colorado’s county clerks, but this year they’ll operating a third one, the presidential primary.
Trying to find enough people to work for the presidential primary in March, the primary in June and the general in November — during a tight job market — was one of the issues discussed at the Colorado County Clerks Association’s three-day winter conference in Colorado Springs.
Clerks and their staffers turned out in record numbers for the conference, attending workshops dealing with their varied duties, including motor vehicle registrations and document recording, all requiring delivering customer service.
“Running three elections in 2020 puts a lot of stress on all of us statewide, but especially a small office like Conejos,” Clerk Nathan Ruybal said. “However, I have great staff and experienced election judges and with the support from other counties and, of course, the Secretary of State’s office I am confident in running three successful elections.”
Mario Linares, who works for Alamosa County Clerk Dixie Heiman, praised the speaker Amy Weitzel, vice president of development of Triad Employee Assistance Program and owner of Impact Development Solutions based in Denver.
Weitzel is a former business communications professor at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, where she taught her students the importance of “crucial conversations.”
“It was very important to know how to communicate with our co-workers. Yes, just like any other job we all have some issues in the workplace but we don’t get to hear how to deal with it,” Linares said. “Communication is key and I am a strong advocate of training
and learning new methods to learn how to make it a better work environment. We are all a team.”
Archuleta County Clerk Kristy Archuleta said the state’s Motor Vehicle Division offered a helpful class on sales tax and leases.
“It made it beneficial to have the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Sales Tax Division there to explain what we should require to accept paperwork,” she said. “We are not policing the dealerships. It is up to the state to do more training and make sure the dealerships are clear how to process their paperwork.”
Archuleta also attended classes on recording documents.
“There have been some struggles between clerks and their assessor’s office due to redacting too much information and it makes it difficult for the assessor to be certain they are removing the correct name from ownership,” she said. “Statewide changes can help consistency and less rejections of documents.”
The conference ended Jan. 22 with a day-long election security exercise, Election Preparedness for Infrastructure and Cybersecurity or EPIC. It was hosted by Secretary of State Jena Griswold, and intended to prepare county clerks and other election officials with various worst-case scenarios that could potentially impact the election process.
“This seminar is fast, furious and a bit stressful but it gives you the confidence to handle worst-case scenarios when dealing with inside and outside interferences that can arise when running an election,” Conejos County’s Rubal said. “This seminar was helpful to have us think quick and make good decisions to keep our elections safe and secure.”
Also at the conference, La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker took over the CCCA presidency from Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill.
Each clerks conference has a theme and this time it was “Back to the Future.” During the banquet, when clerks and their staffs finally have a chance to let loose, a number dressed in ’80s garb. Scrunchies held up their hair. They donned leg warmers.
Alamosa’s Linares said he loved the dance with its ’80s’ music.
The ’80s were a different time. Colorado’s population at the start of the decade was 2.9 million. Eligible voters participated on Election Day at polling places.
Colorado now has 5.7 million people. Neighborhood polling places are gone, replaced by a mail-ballot system and vote centers.
Voters can start voting 22 days before an election, and they can also register to vote on Election Day.
One thing hasn’t changed. The path to democracy still leads right to your county clerk’s door.
Bartels was a reporter for 35 years, including for The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, before serving as the spokeswoman for Secretary of State Wayne Williams. She now does communications consulting; one of her clients is the Colorado County Clerks Association. She also writes a weekly column for Colorado Politics, and some of the material in this story also appeared in her column.