Colorado's county clerks are asking state and federal lawmakers to send money, lots of it.
In a letter Wednesday to the state's two U.S. senators — Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner — the Colorado County Clerks Association asked them to ask U.S. Senate leaders to make sure they include funding to ensure the state's and nation's election systems are protected from cyber attacks, among other things.
"Despite extraordinary progress by state and local election officials to improve election security, upgrade equipment and implement audit procedures, critical vulnerabilities remain," wrote Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk and current association president.
"Although Colorado leads the nation in secure election practices — for example, Colorado is the first U.S. state to require risk-limiting audits after each election — there is much more Colorado can do with additional federal money," she added. "This funding needs to be earmarked specifically to harden local government systems in a comprehensive way."
Association Executive Director Pam Anderson said that means such things as complying with the proposed SAVE Act, a bill working its way through Congress designed to require more secure voting systems nationwide. She said the federal government needs to continue funding systems primarily for the benefit of smaller counties that can't afford to maintain a secure system without help.
"A lot of what that bill is asking for around elections reform, Colorado already does," Anderson said. "We're on the forefront of all things elections. We have limited-risk audits, we have paper ballots, we have upgraded our systems. But that all fell at the local level."
At the same time, the association is working with Secretary of State Jena Griswold to get more funding for local county clerks to implement some of the things the Colorado Legislature approved during this year's session, such as more vote centers and automatic voter registration requirement.
Anderson said the Legislature did include some money for those things, but it wasn't nearly enough.
"The state did fund some of the capital costs for vote centers, for more in-person voting, however, they did not fund the operational increased costs for some of the things they are requiring, such as training and judges," she said. "We're going to be having that conversation at the Legislature. If you want things, you have to fund them."
That backs up what Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters told county commissioners on Tuesday in her request for four more workers in her Elections Division, saying the five people she has now isn't adequate to handle all the new requirements that are coming.
Like Peters, Anderson said many county clerks across the state are faced with similar issues.
"They're having to be technology experts. They're having to be systems experts. They are customer service, auditors, accountants," Anderson said. "Our members have expressed that they have a lot of pressure on their systems. The local level has really struggled, and oftentimes funding isn't sufficient. The demand and the complexity for the work that county clerks do has just increased over the years and the resources haven't kept pace."