Strong stand by Pitkin clerk
Janice Vos Caudill, Pitkin County clerk and chief election official, faced controversial decisions on election transparency issues and made the tough calls this week in the face of criticism and conflicting advice and no precedent. Vos Caudill chose to honor the law, although it was inconvenient and uncomfortable to be the leader of statewide policy change.
Our clerk deserves recognition by area voters, candidates and issue proponents for two significant changes made this week to make Pitkin County’s elections some of the most transparent and verifiable elections in Colorado. After the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the public’s right to review voted ballots, Janice was the first Colorado county clerk to positively respond to a request to arrange a symbolic inspection to break the ice and prepare the way for routine requests by citizens and the press in future elections.
This is particularly noteworthy as Colorado will be a 2012 presidential battleground state, where the national media may demand greater visibility into Colorado’s election results as they routinely enjoy in many other high-profile states.
Additionally, Clerk Vos Caudill broke with recent Colorado tradition and policy to reaffirm the rights of authorized election watchers to verify important functions in the processing of elections. Authorized citizen watchers are one of the important checks and balances in Colorado’s election system intended to achieve more fairness for those who may not be adequately represented by the two major parties’ appointed judges and canvass board members. Over the last few years, watcher rights had deteriorated through clerks’ policy across the state.
Several election officials in other Colorado counties are still failing to comply with the appeals court ruling and the secretary of state guidance to make anonymous voted ballots public records. Unlike Vos Caudill, they apparently do not feel that their constituents have the right to oversee their own elections. Additionally, most do not want to honor those oversight rights of watchers.
Clerk Vos Caudill has also volunteered Pitkin as a pilot site for a new concept in post-elections audits being studied by the secretary of state. Whether that audit concept is ready for statewide application is questionable, but we will never know without a few test cases like Pitkin to inform the decision-makers. Again, Caudill is leveraging her department’s limited resources to serve not only Pitkin County voters but to inform statewide decisions as well.
I expect that Pitkin will continue to provide leadership for the state as Colorado struggles with the needs for greater election transparency and verifiability.
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