Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams prides himself on making Colorado one of the most accessible and safest places to vote in the country, and he wants to continue his work for another four years.
Williams, a Republican in charge of leading Colorado’s elections, has instituted mail voting and a post-election audit that guarantees the accuracy of votes as they have been cast. When Colorado’s voter registration system was targeted in 2016 by Russian hackers, Williams said his office was able to thwart the threat.
A story earlier this year in the Washington Post called Colorado one of the most robust and secure voting processes in the country. Williams said it is the nonpartisan work he has done in the past four years that earned Colorado the recognition.
The number of registered Colorado voters was the highest it has ever been this past year under Williams’ watch, in part because of measures he said make it easier for residents to register, such as automatic voter registration renewal for people receiving or renewing a driver’s license.
He hopes these facts will propel him past his Democratic challenger, Jena Griswold, in this year’s Secretary of State contest.
“There’s a record of four years of what I’ve done, and the best way to tell what someone is going to do in the future is by looking at what they’ve done in the past,” said Williams, who visited Durango on Tuesday.
For Williams, who lives in Colorado Springs, that record includes meeting with county clerks in every county of Colorado at least once since he has been in office – building a bridge between state and local voting entities that had not previously existed. He said that work gained support from Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan clerks around the state.
He has also secured new voting machines for the entire state and instituted a mail-in voting system that has been adopted by most Colorado counties. Old information systems have been replaced with newer technology, he said, a proactive measure he hopes will help the office better serve those who need it.
“We’ve actually done what I’ve promised,” he said. “We’ve formed partnerships, we’ve gotten bipartisan legislation through. And that is a record that is frankly unusual in this day and age.”
Williams faced blowback from some Colorado voters last year for his decision to turn over public voter record information to a now-dissolved Trump administration commission charged with investigating alleged voter fraud in the 2016 elections. More than 3,000 Colorado voters withdrew their voter registrations in the wake of the controversial commission.
Williams, in support of his decision, said he was following the law in releasing information that is available to anyone who wants it, although he publicly disagreed with the purpose of the inquiry – to legitimize Trump’s assertion that millions defrauded the election system.
Griswold said in July that the decision to give records to the federal government threatened Colorado voters’ security.
“We need to be very careful with voting rights,” Griswold told The Durango Herald in July. “He (Williams) took a different approach and sent the data, and thousands of people withdrew their voter registration.”
Williams called Griswold’s assertion that the state should not have cooperated with the federal government “not just wrong, it’s scary.”
Despite the voters who withdrew their registrations, Colorado has one of the highest percentages of registered voters in the country, he said.
Williams served as an El Paso County clerk from 2011 to 2014 and as an El Paso County commissioner from 2003 to 2011.
Griswold has never held a public office.