Despite dispute with secretary of state, clerks are ready for top-notch election

By Sheila Reiner

Readers may have heard last week that the Colorado County Clerks Association sent Secretary of State Scott Gessler a letter outlining some concerns regarding recent program implementations and changes in rules and process required by Gessler.

However, no matter the fuss, no matter the concerns, our clerks and their staffs are staying the course and preparing to deliver a top-notch election to the voters of Colorado.

The letter is intended to send a reminder to Gessler that we are in this together. The secretary of state has rule-making authority and the clerks must make those rules work. It is important, with this connection between us, that we follow the requirements and stay above the fray.

Our Founding Fathers set up our government structure to be slow to change. This structure provides for ideas and projects to be thoughtful, thorough and approved by at least two legislative bodies before implementation begins — theoretically. This slow and thorough process, in design, provides for stability.

Election law has been anything but stable for 10 years now. The county clerks of Colorado have implemented so many new programs, rules and laws that even at this point in my tenure — first as an employee of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and now as the clerk — I cannot recall them all.

This year Secretary of State Gessler has asked us to implement several more new projects, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The numerous mailings and advertisements have helped remind people to update their information earlier rather than later. The on-line registrations have helped our office gain efficiencies and have made it easier for voters to register or update their information. The implementation of voting online for overseas military personnel is an exciting project.

The Election Night reporting system for the state is very cool and will make a big difference in the accuracy of the vote accumulation statewide, since it will be submitted directly to the state by the election officials. Also, the statewide Ballot on Demand printers are a great service provided with the aid of the state and a federal grant, giving each county the ability to print ballots on-site

The above-mentioned projects will be an improvement — with a few caveats: They all must work correctly and the individuals working with them need sufficient experience.

Also, these projects are only part of what we have implemented during the past nine months. We rely on our foundation of knowledge and experience. This is especially important when we look at the last nine months of challenges that include new legislation, litigation, changes to rules and processes, new opportunities and a presidential election. 

Election officials are tasked with having contingency and back-up plans for everything, and we do.

If a label for a mail ballot won’t print, we can handwrite the information we need. If the Election Night reporting system fails, we can print a report. If the online system gave a voter static and failed to register him or her, we will do an emergency registration and provide the voter with a ballot. If the statewide voter registration system or our network connectivity goes down, we have paper poll books.

I think readers get the idea: The clerks have experience with technology and logistical issues. Voters may be inconvenienced by having to wait for us to change over to a backup plan, but we will get it done. 

Our base processes and laws are solid. We will rely on them as we move forward. If people have any questions regarding the security, accuracy or accessibility of our elections system, visit with us. We love to visit about it and get great ideas from our staff, election judges and the public.

We have a small army of dedicated election judges helping us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my Elections Division staff of four. The four of them are amazing, but it is our numerous election judges who really make this election happen.

If readers know someone working with our elections this year, please take a moment to thank them.

Sheila Reiner is the Mesa County clerk and recorder and she is in charge of elections for the county.


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