The Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder’s Office got a visit from Colorado Secretary of State on Wayne Williams on Friday.
Williams visited the county during a tour of clerk’s offices in the Southwest, a trip he said he tries to make once every two years. He used the time to discuss upcoming changes to the election process with County Clerk Kim Percell. The next Montezuma County election will be held in April.
Williams said part of his goal in the tour was to congratulate county clerks on the success of a recent “risk-limiting audit” conducted by county election offices statewide during the 2017 election. Designed to verify the accuracy of local election results, the procedure requires more people to check ballots in close election races, according to the Secretary of State website. Williams said Montezuma County had one of the closest election races in the state this year, which helped the audit’s overall results.
“Montezuma was one of the first done, which I thought was impressive, given the number of ballots they had to poll,” he said. “Others were working over the weekend to get it done.”
He also discussed some legislative changes that will affect next year’s elections. After the passage of Proposition 108 in 2016, unaffiliated voters in Colorado can participate in one of the major party primary elections without affiliating with that party. That means that during the primary elections in 2018, unaffiliated voters will receive both a Republican and Democrat ballot, but they can only return one. Williams said it will be a challenge for clerks to enforce the new rules for the unaffiliated.
“If they vote both, then neither counts,” he said. “But you’ve got to review that and figure that out, without finding out how that person voted.”
He said verifying unaffiliated ballots during the primaries will likely require more bipartisan election judges and more time, although the state hasn’t issued an official verification policy yet. In the meantime, Percell said she hopes to avoid problems by getting as much early information out about the elections as possible.
“We’ll try and get people as informed as we can,” she said. “As far as a strategy, we’re still waiting for (the state) to tell us how it’s going to be processed.”
On a more local level, another piece of recent legislation will allow the city of Cortez to verify municipal ballots in 2018 for the first time. Percell said she is still working with the city clerk’s office to figure out how that process will work.
Jan. 2 is the deadline to affiliate with a party to run as a candidate in the 2018 primary election. Jan. 8 is the deadline for voters to affiliate with a party to vote in the precinct caucuses on March 6. Montezuma County will be holding elections for several local governing positions in April.
All local, primary and general elections next year will be held by mail-in ballots.