COLORADO SPRINGS – Restricting any of her employees from traveling to Alabama, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold entered the controversial discussion this week surrounding the state’s adoption of an anti-abortion law.
The state is often a host for training under the National Association of Election Officials, or Election Center, where employees go to obtain expertise in running elections. Training sessions are often held in Auburn, Alabama, where the university features a high-caliber election administration program.
“This restrictive law, which does not even allow exceptions for incest and rape, is appalling. We should not spend Colorado state resources in a state that restricts women’s basic rights to health care. I call on other state and local leaders in Colorado and across the country to join me in this boycott,” Griswold said in a statement. She was unavailable for comment Friday.
Her call for a boycott has fueled even more debate — both for and against — as well as questions as to what impact this sort of boycott can have.
I’m calling for a boycott of Alabama. Until Alabama allows for safe & legal access to health care for women, I will not authorize spending of state resources on travel to Alabama. I call on other state and local leaders in CO and across the country to join me in this boycott.
— Jena Griswold (@JenaGriswold) May 16, 2019
News 5 sat down with Wayne Williams, former secretary of state and current Colorado Springs city councilman, to gain some context.
First, he explained why those training courses are necessary.
“Those courses cover everything from voting rights, to how to run an election, to how to deal with a disaster, to preparedness for the issues that might come up,” Williams said.
While some people questioned the legality of Griswold’s boycott, Williams put those questions to rest too.
“Well, certainly, the secretary of state has the power to approve whether there is travel to a particular site or not. That might include one or two employees in a given year,” Williams said.
To be clear, the boycott only pertains to employees in her office and nothing more.
Williams said the office has around 130 total employees, and between 25-30 of them work in the elections division. Those are the employees in need of this specific training, though there aren’t many employees that often go.
Second, the Election Center’s training in Alabama only represents one session out of a handful offered through the year. Beyond that, the center often holds workshops in Colorado — dissolving the need for travel to Alabama for this education.
That said, Griswold’s boycott call appears to mostly be symbolic.
“With the advent of training in Denver, not a lot of reason to spend the money to go to another state when it’s right here in our backyard,” Williams said.