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As ballots go out to voters in Colorado, Secretary of State Jena Griswold discusses her role in the 2023 election

Gavin McGough
Griswold speaking at an event in Telluride

Ballots have been mailed out to voters in Colorado ahead of the upcoming election. While county clerks will be handling the ballots and coordinating the election at a local level, the entire process will be under the oversight of the state's top election official, Secretary of State Jen Griswold.

Jena Griswold: We have a state-wide coordinated election, and I think it will be a great election just like all the elections we have. The county clerks have been working hard preparing ballots, testing all the equipment, doing everything they do to ensure security and accuracy. And then I’ll play the oversight role.

Gavin McGough: As you like to point out, Colorado is consistently recognized for having some of the best run and most trusted elections in the country — what challenges remain and what have you been doing to improve our elections further?

Jena Griswold: Over the last five years that I’ve been Secretary of State we’ve increased access. So, for example, we partnered with the Tribes and saw a 25% increase in Tribal voting, we passed parolee re-enfranchisement, automatic voter registration, guaranteed access on all public universities and Tribal lands. We’ve also had to increase our security posture, the physical security around elections. We’ve seen threats to election workers skyrocket and Colorado has lost about one third of its elected county clerks in the last three years. Election administration is very hard. We had the pandemic, followed by the insurrection, and I’ve been very vocal on the subject — we cannot use threats of intimidation to force good people to step down.

Gavin McGough: So the 2023 election is mostly focused on local issues, but 2024 is going to look a bit different, is your office already looking ahead?

Jena Griswold: Absolutely — and, by the way — that might be the understatement of the day, that 2024 will look different from 2023.

So 2024 is the presidential election, and we saw what happened last presidential election. The former president did everything he could to make it hard for Americans to vote in the middle of the pandemic, ultimately inciting the insurrection on the United State Capitol, your listeners probably know what happened.

And that attack on democracy from 2020 and January 6th has not stopped; it hasn’t. What I can tell your listeners is that I believe we’ll have great elections just as we always do. If there are incidents that happen — such as we saw in Mesa County with their security breach, or in Elbert County — I will act to make sure that every Republican, Democrat and Unaffiliated voter can cast a ballot in our elections.

Gavin McGough: How does your work overseeing elections fit together with all the other issues that Coloradans are facing today?

Jena Griswold: I just think it’s so important to recognize that a well functioning democracy is imperative for all the other things we care about. Because when extremists get elected either because democracy isn't quite working right, or because of dark money, it leads to the state we’re in today.

So I think we need urgent climate action right now; it should be coupled with good union paying jobs because people shouldn't be left behind, and we should be building the blueprint of what the future looks like for our state and the nation. The state is on a really good path but there are some big issues facing us. That calls for dynamic and bold leadership, and I am just so honored to be Secretary of State to work in a small way on these issues.

This story from KOTO was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Gavin McGough is a reporter at KOTO in Telluride.