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Colorado County Clerks conference

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Gearing up to run three elections in 2020

By Lynn Bartels

Running two elections is always a challenge for Colorado’s county clerks, but this year they’ll be 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.

Gilpin County Clerk Sahari McCormick said what she learned at the conference was helpful.

“Election security, hacking, misinformation, and other random threats weigh heavily on me and I want to make sure that the voter and my staff are safe and secure,” she said. “And I enjoy the feedback for the smaller details of the elections, such as what data should I be collecting and why.”

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.

“It was stressful but so eye opening,” McCormick said. “It was an intense experience and I learned that I can respond appropriately despite the intensity. That gave me a new level of confidence going into the 2020 election season.”

Also at the conference, La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker took over the CCCA presidency from Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill.

McCormick said she “thoroughly enjoyed” the keynote speaker, Amy Weitzel vice president of development of Triad Employee Assistance Program and owner of Impact Development Solutions based in Denver. She is a former business communications professor at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, where she taught her students the importance of “crucial conversations.”

“I try to always approach my team and my customers in a heart-centered manner and the speaker’s emphasis on staying focused on what you really want, keeping your heart, eyes and ears open in creating dialogue in crucial conversations was really key for me to hear,” McCormick said.

“I’m always looking for the best ways to approach people, especially for the hard conversations, and this was enlightening.”

Each clerk’s 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 and they donned leg warmers.

The 80’s was 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.

Lynn 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.

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