I am writing in response to the April 5 article, "County officials fire back," written as a result of my decision to place Routt County on the Election Watch List.
In the article, County Commissioner Mitsch Bush alleged my decision was somehow politically driven. I am disappointed an elected official would make such an unfounded, purely partisan attack. Commissioner Mitsch Bush should know all too well Routt County was placed on the probationary list because voters were subjected to four-hour wait times on Election Day, and some poll locations were forced to remain open until 11 p.m. to accommodate the long lines.
Commissioner Mitsch Bush also expressed concern that my office will take credit for the reforms that local officials now are considering. Again, this is an unfounded allegation and it is contrary to my repeated public statements of support for County Clerk Kay Weinland's actions since November.
I also support the formation of the Citizens Election Review Committee to evaluate the problems and recommend solutions. I made my support clear during my visit to Routt County in March, when I met with Clerk Weinland, county commissioners (including Commissioner Mitsch Bush) and county chairs of the Republican and Democrat parties, to discuss the county's election problems.
I support local control. Ultimately, the county's success, or failure, to remedy its election problems will rest on the shoulders of Clerk Weinland. My office will focus on the end result - whether Routt County voters are once again subject to long lines. How the county chooses to correct the problems is a local decision.
Although I am encouraged by the actions local leaders have taken since November, those actions have not changed the fact that problems existed on Election Day, and so these actions did not factor in my decision. Four of the five counties on the Watch List have formed similar task forces or advisory groups. My office has been asked to formally participate in some of these groups and we are pleased to work in collaboration with local leaders.
As Secretary of State, it is my responsibility to ensure that counties conduct their elections in accordance with state and federal law, and that elections are well managed so voters can cast their ballot without facing unreasonable obstacles. My office has identified five counties that fell short of this mark in 2006 and now are on the state's Watch List.
This list is an intermediate, probationary step for these counties, so they can correct their problems at the local level and avoid court-ordered state supervision of their elections. Neither I, nor the locally elected officials in these counties, want to see state-supervised elections. The purpose of the Watch List is to avoid this step. I am confident that if we work together the county's problems will be corrected, and Routt County can then be given a clean bill of health after the 2008 elections.
Contact Mike Coffman at Secretary@sos.state.co.us