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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 1, 20173min412

…And its staff is coming to a gathering near you, sometime soon, to teach you more about voting and election issues.

Speaking of which, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sure gets around, doesn’t he? As chronicled on SOS communications czarina Lynn Bartels’s blog, Williams always seems to be bringing good news about the state’s elections system and related topics to audiences around the state. (Heck, the guy stumps as if he were a politician. Which, of course, he is — though as far as we know, he is one of the few Republican officeholders in Colorado these days who isn’t rumored to be running for another political office.)

In a post this week on Bartels’s blog,  Lizzie Stephani reports on an appearance by Williams and crew at a gathering of Jefferson County Republicans. One takeaway:

Event-goers at the Jeffco event peppered Williams with questions about Proposition 107, which creates a presidential primary and allows unaffiliated voters to participate, and Proposition 108, which allows unaffiliated voters to cast either or a Democratic or Republican ballot but without affiliating with either party.

Williams asked the legislature to pick up the cost of the presidential primary — the next one is in four years — but he said counties must bear the additional costs of sending ballots to unaffiliated voters in the June 2018 primary.

Williams also addressed the provision in Prop 108 that allows the state Democratic or Republican parties to cancel the primary if 75 percent of the party’s state central committee votes to do so, which would prevent unaffiliated voters from helping select the nominee for the general election. The nominees would be selected during the caucus process.

The secretary pointed out the outcry last year when the Colorado Republican Party canceled a nonbinding presidential preference poll.

Both 107 and 108 pose a lot of unknowns, notably: How many unaffiliated voters actually will take advantage of their newfound clout? The answer awaits us next spring. One thing’s for sure: Williams will be in the thick of it all when we find out.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 16, 20175min328

…But our working assumption is they won’t get even 15 minutes of notoriety this time around. You do remember Democrats Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich; they were Colorado’s dissident delegates to the Electoral College who hatched a plot with a handful of like-minded electors in other states to derail Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency. They dubbed themselves the “Hamilton Electors.” Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams just called them “faithless.”

That was last December, after the November election in which Trump’s victory had blindsided the press and political establishment.

Though Colorado’s electorate awarded the state’s electoral votes to Hillary Clinton, Baca and Nemanich planned to band together with electors of other parties in other states to cast their votes for another Republican than Trump on the assumption that any other Republican would be better, even to Democrats such as they. It was a bold if futile notion.

After a series of stunts including some legal rope-a-dope by their lawyers — suing to release the duo from their pledge to vote for the winner of Colorado’s popular vote — Baca and Nemanich and the rest of Colorado’s electors met at the Capitol Dec. 19 as scheduled and voted as they were supposed to (though another holdout refused and was replaced). And Donald Trump became president.

The whole affair couldn’t have unfolded at a better time for its instigators, during the holiday lull when the media have little else of urgency to write about in the political world. All the same, we’d thought they were history after that.

Not quite, as it turns out. The Secretary of State’s Office informed us via press release this week:

Two Colorado presidential electors announced today they are suing Secretary of State Wayne Williams, saying his refusal to allow them to vote for someone other than the presidential winner in Colorado violated their constitutional rights.

The lawsuit comes just 12 days after the same two electors, Polly Baca of Denver and Robert Nemanich of Colorado Springs, dismissed a similar claim that they had filed in U.S. District Court in Denver. The pair lost their preliminary hearing in that court case.

And though the office itself is being sued, its press shop was nice enough to include some verbiage from Baca and Nemanch’s lawyer:

“Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich believed the special circumstances of the last election required that they vote their conscience, contrary to a pre-election pledge,” attorney Lawrence Lessing announced in a news release from the group Equal Citizens. “Secretary Williams took the egregious step of threatening them with removal, as well as criminal prosecution, if they did so.”

Williams’s comeback also was in the statement from his office:

“The question of removal was directly raised in the state court and the judge ordered that an elector who does not vote as Coloradans voted can be removed. That binding decision was appealed by these same two electors, and their appeal was denied by the Colorado Supreme Court…”

“According to the binding court decisions faithless electors can be removed, which preserves the votes of the nearly three million Coloradans who cast their ballots in the November election. The only thing I asked the electors to do was follow the law.”

Nevertheless, their quest sputters on for now.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 15, 20174min660

iStock image / siraanamwong

 

For all you hand-wringers fretting over the purportedly fragile state of our democracy — worrying that voters are turning away from politics out of frustration, disgust, apathy or, most recently, out of fear their personal voter data will be shared with the feds — Colorado has a tonic for you:

Voter registration just hit a record high, the Secretary of State’s Office announced Monday.

As a press release from the office noted, the milestone comes despite, “the recently publicized voter withdrawals.” Meaning, of course, the reaction by largely Democratic voters to requests by the Republican Trump administration’s “election integrity” commission for information on each state’s voter rolls.

By the numbers: 25,039 new or returning voters have registered since June 28, bringing the total to 3,737,569 Coloradans who stand ready to participate in democracy. That’s the highest number of voters ever for the state.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams was quoted in the press release: “I am pleased that Coloradans are engaged and I hope that citizens continue to register to vote using the many tools my office provides.”

Now, here’s the most interesting part: How that infusion of 25,000-plus voters breaks down by party. It wasn’t in the press release, but the office’s Julia Sunny tracked it down for us (thanks, Julia!), and look who accounted for more than half of the total increase:

(sos.state.co.us)

It wasn’t Dems defying Donald Trump or Republicans standing by their man; it was that growing group of voters who continue to comprise the plurality of Colorado’s electorate: unaffiliateds. Unaffiliated voters’ growth outpaced that of either major party by more than 2 to 1.

And, really, what does it mean? We’ll step aside for the moment and defer to the pundits on this much-discussed trend — other than to offer this trite-but-true-ism: Politicians of the two major parties cannot afford to ignore the unaffiliated voter.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 19, 20173min275

Denverite’s Adrian Garcia reports this week that Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is touting post-election audits as a new, enhanced safeguard against election manipulation in Colorado:

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office has been traveling to different counties this year to train clerks how to conduct the audit, office spokeswoman Lynn Bartels said Monday. … Williams told Politico in a statement Monday that the audit will allow Colorado to say, “with a high level of statistical probability that has never existed before,” that official election results have not been manipulated.

If the audit process is implemented successfully, Politico reports, Colorado would be the first state to “regularly conduct a sophisticated post-election audit that cybersecurity experts have long called necessary.”

All of which has become a supercharged political issue — and notice the curious cross-currents at which a Republican like Williams finds himself. Election manipulation, long an obsession of the Republican right, has become a newfound target of Democrats amid persistent allegations Russia’s government attempted to meddle in last November’s presidential election to undermine Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (remember her?).

At the same time, Republican President Donald Trump maintains that purportedly massive voter fraud — by undocumented immigrants, some would allege — cost him the popular vote even as he won the Electoral College. Hence, his controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which has rankled Democrats by requesting voter information from Colorado and other states.

Which, if we may crack wise, means Wayne Williams has to be on the watch for Russian hackers trying to hijack the electoral vote for Republicans as well as for immigrants attempting to pump up the popular vote for Democrats. Give the guy a raise!


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 20, 20172min306

Don’t believe us? Just ask Lynn Bartels, communications chief for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Lynn’s must-read blog — reflecting her wisdom from decades as news hound covering government and politics for the mainstream media — frequently showcases the mechanics of the election process.

A blog post this week bearing the headline, “Colorado’s county clerks: the rock stars of democracy,” highlights some of the people who keep the mechanism itself finely tuned and well oiled:

A state senator on Monday praised Colorado’s 64 county clerks, saying they’re the reason Colorado is a “beacon of how elections should be done.”

“I really believe the county clerks are the rock stars of democracy,” said Denver Democrat Lois Court. “I know you all work your little tails off … and I salute you for everything you do.”

Court was one of three lawmakers honored by the Colorado County Clerks Association, which is holding its summer conference in Snowmass Village. The association also honored Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge, and presented an award to Logan County Attorney Alan Samber, for his work on a bill that involved land title registrations.

Read more about the often-unsung heroes of the election process; here’s the link again to Lynn’s blog post. Maybe it’ll even inspire you to give ’em a hug.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 11, 20175min271
For all the tight controls on campaign contributions to candidates for state office — no individual donor can give more than $1,150 to someone running for governor, and it’s lower for legislative contenders — the state imposes no restraints at all on a candidate for the Baca County Commission. Or for Larimer County treasurer. Or clerk and […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 10, 20176min297
An oft-criticized feature of Colorado’s campaign-finance law that has been manipulated for years to sling mud and take cheap shots at candidates and political groups is on the verge of reform. The Colorado Senate’s State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee voted unanimously today to send House Bill 1155 to the full Senate for consideration after no one showed up to testify […]

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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 13, 20174min282

Having just launched his late-in-the-game bid to lead the state Republican Party, longtime Douglas County party activist Mark Baisley already has withdrawn. Baisley briefly announced his exit in the same forum he had used to announce his entry into the race two days earlier, Facebook:

Folks, I am withdrawing from the Chairman’s race. Or to put it more accurately, I have decided that I will not accept the nomination at the Colorado Republican organization meeting three weeks from today.

A reality that I did not have three days ago that I know in full today is how much the 400+ members of the Colorado Republican Committee were already struggling with their decision and that adding my name to the mix was not helping. Bottom line is that I believe my stepping in to the race at this point is not good for the party.

So, I guess I want to say thanks to those who have encouraged me and an apology to those for whom I made matters more difficult. The chairmanship is an important job and has become a very large task. I will work to support the success of whomever you guys choose.

Regards.

So, he got push-back. Who in the remaining field — 2016 7th Congressional District candidate George Athanasopoulosoutgoing El Paso County Republican Chair Jeff Hays, and Mesa County Trump campaign Chair Kevin McCarney — would benefit most from Baisley’s departure?

Comments posted to Baisley’s exit annoucement included thank-yous from vocal supporters of Athanasopoulos, who has pitched himself as the anti-establishment candidate against Hays. For example, El Paso County GOP activist and Hays critic Kanda Calef posted a “Thank you, Mark!” — suggesting Baisley’s candidacy would have split off support for Athanasopoulos.

Hays, meanwhile, has been reeling in endorsements from Republican notables across the state, including Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Current state GOP chair Steve House announced in January he is not seeking another term.



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 10, 20173min294

Jeff Hays’s campaign for Colorado GOP chair circulated yet another letter from a Republican notable Thursday — state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman — in support of his bid. Hays’s rival for the state party’s top post, George Athanasopoulos, meanwhile dismissed Coffman’s gesture as coming from “the political class.”

Coffman’s letter, distributed to GOP state Central Committee members and other Republicans statewide, continues a full-court press being mounted by Hays’s team to dial in the party’s headliners. Coffman casts Hays as the one who can get things done:

Jeff has a proven track record as two-term Chair of the El Paso County GOP, and he will  bring the skills and experience he gained in that position to effectively manage the state party. I’m confident that he’ll lead our party to success because he understands the fundamentals of a successful Chair. Jeff has committed to focusing his energy on three things as Chair: raising money, growing the party, and winning elections.

Others, including GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams, have shared similar sentiments.

Contacted Thursday, Athanasopoulos waved off the latest round of support for Hays. Athanapoulos’s campaign has cast Hays as the establishment candidate — a familiar theme among campaigns in both parties following the Donald Trump/Bernie Sanders uprising of 2016.

“The Republican elites and the political class are throwing their full weight behind Jeff,” Athanasopoulos said. “They obviously learned nothing from 2016. My supporters are ordinary Republicans, the grassroots. They might not be as flashy but there are a lot more of them, a lot more. The political class may want to keep that in mind.”

Also in the race is Mesa County Trump campaign Chair Kevin McCarney. As of Thursday afternoon, former Douglas County GOP Chair Mark Baisley also had announced via Facebook that he was entering the race. Current state GOP chair Steve House announced in January he is not seeking another term.

 



Joey BunchJoey BunchMarch 1, 20175min224
A bill to make public records available electronically passed the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Wednesday, a milestone for a controversial bill. “It has indeed been an interesting journey and a work in progress,” said Senate Bill 40‘s sponsor, John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, After similar legislation, Senate Bill 37, died in committee last year, […]

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