COLORADO- In a matter of weeks, Coloradans will be electing a Secretary of State. Republican Incumbent Wayne Williams will go up against Democrat Jena Griswold. Both candidates took part in KOAA News5’s THE State Debate on October 13th in Colorado Springs.
Williams is an attorney who previously served on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners and as the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder.
Griswold is an attorney practicing in Louisville, who previously focused international anti-corruption law, worked in the Obama administration as a voter protection attorney, and as the Director of the Governors’ DC Office.
The person who is elected into the office of Colorado Secretary of State will have the task of overseeing elections, business and licensing, administration, and information technology.
Both candidates support Amendments Y and Z to the Colorado Constitution which calls for redistricting to no longer be handled by the lawmakers who represent their districts, rather a 12 member commission made up of 4 democrats, 4 republicans and 4 unaffiliated voters would make these choices. The commission members would be chosen by a panel of retired judges.
“No one wants politicians to draw their own maps,” declared Griswold. “The current system is broken. The legislature has failed to act with respect to congressional districts for the last several cycles,” said Williams.
Both agreed it is not a perfect system as smaller political parties are not represented, however, they encourage members of those parties to still make their voices heard.
On the subject of helping small business owners get started in Colorado, Williams pointed out that his office worked with Governor John Hickenlooper to establish mybiz.colorado.gov as a one-stop shop. Griswold gave him credit for that work, yet believes it is not a complete project, saying it does not give business owners important information about insurance requirements and workman’s compensation coverage.
With national attention over election security and interference with elections from overseas, both candidates say they have plans to make sure Colorado’s voter information is protected.
Current Secretary of State Williams pointed to his track record with his time in office. Delivering key points of his pitch for re-election by Colorado voters. “Lowest business fees in the nation. 100,000 new businesses. Highest percentage of registered voters in any state. Highest voter turnout in the latest presidential election of any place in America,” Williams said at THE State Debate.
Jena Griswold said she is “tremendously concerned” about dark money influencing politics and is looking for changes in campaign finance laws. If elected, she wants to work with the State Legislature to close loopholes in the process.
Williams says he has plans to make new standards for the Colorado Campaign Finance Enforcement Plan, which was struck down by a federal court. “We’re going to be working with both Democrats and Republicans to pass legislation that permanently addresses that enforcement plan,” said Williams.
During THE State Debate Griswold went after Williams over the turning over of basic voter registration information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, created by President Trump after he claimed many illegal voters took part in the 2016 election. “I won’t play for President Trump when he wants to cause chaos and chill the democratic process in Colorado,” said Griswold.
However, that basic information – name, address, party affiliation and date of birth – is available to anyone under the Colorado Open Records Act.
Griswold also claimed, “Our election systems have to work in Colorado. And we have a statewide voter registration system that has to work in real time on election day. The problem is it generally does not. It has gone down in 2010, 2014, 2016. And when it goes down it causes 2-3 hour lines in voting locations.”
A fact check on this claim, the problems on election day 2014 were tied to a vendor who experienced a major flaw with their database, causing local clerk and recorder offices to use backup procedures. A report by the Bipartisan Policy Center found aside from the vendor issue, local offices needed better training and more testing. In 2016, there was a 30-minute time frame on election day when the site to find information about voter registration went down.
In response, Williams pointed out the issues prior to 2015, when he took office, were problems with his predecessor’s office and stated his staff fixed the issues that came up before his tenure and during the 2016 election.
Still, Williams says his track record during his time in office demonstrates his ability to keep Colorado elections safe and fair for voters.
With a voter turnout of about 30 percent in June’s primary, Williams notes that Colorado’s registration is higher than most states.
“We’re working to make it easy and accessible for folks and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Williams.
His opponent says she’d like to expand automatic voter registration and modernize the current system.
Jena Griswold, who touts herself as a novice politician says she’s prepared to make changes for the Secretary of State’s office.
Some of her plans include expanding election day hours and setting up more polling locations on college campuses.