Grand County Clerk and Recorder recognized for conducting an election in a fire zone

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Election judges work to scan ballots in the 2020 election.
Election judges work to scan ballots in the 2020 election.

by Marissa Lorenz
On Friday, January 29, Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene was recognized by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold
“for extraordinary work conducting an election in an active fire zone.” Clerk Rosene accepted the presented National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Medallion Award on behalf of Grand County’s 2020 citizen election judges.

Via a virtual ceremony, Secretary Griswold expressed appreciation to Rosene for “leadership which ensured that Grand County voters could cast votes during an unprecedented national disaster,” referring to the East Troublesome fire which started October 14 and blew up in a firestorm on October 21, growing more than 100,000 acres in size and rapidly becoming the second-largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history.

“While the East Troublesome fire raged in Grand County in October,” Griswold continued, “Clerk Rosene and her staff collected ballots out of a dropbox in Grand Lake, which had already been evacuated, and made sure that the voting service and polling center in Granby remained open for early polling, despite a constant threat of evacuation.”

Rosene acknowledged the challenges of the East Troublesome fire as well as those presented by the Williams Fork Fire and the COVID-19 pandemic just following the presidential primary election in February 2020 and during the petition process and general primary in June.

Speaking of Grand County during the East Troublesome fire, Rosene said, “Large areas were subject to pre-evacuation or evacuation orders with many election judges and county employees in those areas. We had judges who evacuated their homes and continued to work in our office that was subject to pre-evacuation.

“We had firefighters who fought in the fires and came to work in the election. We had election judges who lost their homes in the fire
and continued to work through the election. With the support of our first responders; our Grand County Sheriff’s Office, IT department, and many county departments; and the election division of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office; as well as the Colorado Clerks’ Association; and the Red Cross, we were able to provide a complete, fair, and transparent election.”

“One goal of NASS is the promotion of elections with special emphasis on voter education and participation. Our dedicated election judges not only promote participation, they make that participation possible,” Clerk Rosene concluded.

“We, as election officials, owe a great deal of thanks to our election workers across the country. Our election workers in Grand County are among the finest. I’m proud to work with them, and I appreciate this opportunity to thank them by receiving this NASS medallion.”
Specifically, Rosene later specified, there were 68 Grand County citizens who worked in the various 2020 elections. 56 individuals helped facilitate the General Election, and an additional 12 residents who were not part of the election team for the November election worked in either the Presidential or General Primary.

The Clerk explains that judges perform a wide variety of responsibilities, starting long before the election itself, including logic and accuracy test judges who test both ballots and the election software and ballot prep judges who prepare ballots for mailing.

During the voting window, judges act in capacities that range from those of signature checking judges to those of polling judges, batching judges who prepare the ballots for scanning, counting and scanning judges, and replication judges who replicate any ballots that cannot be scanned.

To further ensure a fair and accurate vote, there is an audit process performed by a risk-limiting audit board of judges and a final team of canvas board judges who observe the risk-limiting audit before certifying the election results. Judges work in bi-partisan teams, under cameras, and, explains Rosene, “in 2020, with all the necessary COVID protections.”

All election judge positions are paid according to law and earn minimum wage or above.

But “My experience has been that they all do it as a labor of love,” observes Rosene. “They are all committed to the process and work to make sure that it is done right. I feel so lucky to work with such dedicated people. They worked through COVID and all the additional restrictions. Then they worked through the fires. I am truly humbled by the dedication of our citizen election judges.”

The Secretary of State’s Office describes the NASS Medallion Award as intended to honor those “with an established record of promoting the goals of NASS, including elections, with special emphasis on voter education and participation; civic education; service to state government, specifically as it relates to the duties of the office of the Secretary of State; a business or individual whose philanthropic contributions have significantly enhanced the quality of life in a local or regional area within a state, or within an entire state.”

With those goals in mind, Secretary of State Griswold presented four other NASS Medallion Awards during the remote event – Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion, Adams County Clerk Josh Zygielbaum, Christopher Krebs, former Director of the Department of Homland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), and the Colorado Chapter of the League of Women Voters.

For more information on NASS and the NASS Medallion Award, go to www.nass.org. To learn more about elections in Colorado, visit www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections. And for more about Grand County elections and election results, go to www.co.grand.co.us/147/Elections. If you are interested in joining the Grand County election team as a year-round, full-time employee, go to Job Opportunities at co.grand.co.us to learn more about the currently open position for an elections deputy in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office.