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Secretary of State Jena Griswold stops in Telluride on reelection campaign trail

 Jena Griswold is running for reelection as Colorado's Secretary of State.
Maeve Conran
/
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Jena Griswold is running for reelection as Colorado's Secretary of State.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold is running for reelection this November. While she was in Telluride recently to meet with voters for a campaign fundraiser, she spoke with reporter Julia Caulfield about why she’s running, the importance of election security, and Lil Kim.

Griswold said she’s not the typical person to run for office and to hold office.

JG: So, I grew up in Drake, Colorado, in Estes Park, in a cabin with an outhouse outside, at times on food stamps, at times we were going to food banks, and I started working the summer after seventh grade.

And working so young I really saw that a lot of Colorado families were struggling, and that inspired me to be first in my family to go to a four-year college, and then to law school.

And really, I bring the value of everyday people, whether you're from rural Colorado or a big city, whether you're rich or you know, blue collar, regardless of the color of your skin, or your zip code, should have a say in how our country is going, and that say starts with the ballot box.

So I ran for Secretary of State in 2018 with a series of promises to expand access and security, and that's what I've done as Secretary of State.

I have tried to always be a champion for voting access and voting rights.

I'm the nation's youngest Secretary of State, the first Democrat elected (as Colorado Secretary of State) in 60 years.

And I hope to continue to champion everyday people's right to vote in a second term.

JC: Across the country we have all seen the importance of elections and how contentious they can be at times, and the importance of safe and fair elections.

In your role, what are you really proud of, or what do you think you've done well to make sure that Colorado is able to have fair and safe and secure elections?

JG: Well I've increased access quite a bit.

So for example, we have 65% more secure ballot drop boxes now.

We partnered with the tribes and saw approximately 20% increase in tribal voting.

I passed legislation to guarantee access on every public university and on tribal lands.

I passed automatic voter registration, a program that registered 350,000 eligible Coloradans, Republicans, Democrats, and Unaffiliated (voters) to cast a ballot.

And when things started to shift in this nation, when we started to see this massive attack on voting rights and on elections, I've always stood up for Colorado voters.

Whether that means intervening in Mesa County, when rogue County Clerk Tina Peters compromised her own voting equipment, to making sure that voters in Democratic leaning counties have elections that they deserve as Colorado citizens.

I'll always protect our election infrastructure and the right to vote.

JC: Where do you think we still have to go? Obviously nothing's perfect, what are maybe challenges or growth opportunities that Colorado still has when it comes to voting?

JG: Well, Colorado is the nation's gold standard for voting. We have the best access. We have the best election security, but there's always more that you can do.

In 2020, just to give you a data point, 86.5% of active voters cast a ballot in the middle of the pandemic.

So, our elections are going really well.

But with that said, you know, I look forward to continuing to increase access.

We’re already planning for next year's legislative session and are looking at things like expanding automatic voter registration, to more places where Coloradans interact with government.

We want to continue to partner with the tribes to make sure that every Coloradan has a full franchise in this state, and we've been very successful in partnering with the tribes, and there's more that we can do.

We also need to continue to shine light on money in politics, so we plan in my office to upgrade the reporting of campaign spending, the reporting of lobbying.

And to tell you a little bit, the unfortunate part is that we haven't been immune to attacks on democracy here.

We have two county clerks who have breached their internal security to try to prove conspiracies just in the last year.

We have a county in the state of Colorado where the county clerk works behind bulletproof glass because of the threats to election workers.

On election day, we saw a voter in Pueblo, try to hack into a piece of voting equipment.

We will continue to see these evolving threats, and I will continue to act decisively.

Whether it's with these county clerks, making sure that we decertify compromised voting equipment and appoint folks to oversee elections that need to, to the threats against election workers.

Just this year alone, I ran legislation and passed into law, the nation's first law on insider threats, it's now a felony to compromise voting equipment.

We made it a crime to threaten an election worker or retaliate against them for doing their job.

We also prohibited the open carrying of guns from 100 feet of a voting center where you drop off your ballot or for where you process your ballot.

So, we'll continue to rise to the challenges and make sure our elections remain the best in the nation.

JC: You talk about the importance of having access to voting and making sure that Coloradans feel like they get to be part of that process.

But we're also seeing in Colorado, across the country, folks who, so maybe they get to make their vote, but then once that happens, they don't necessarily feel like politicians or people in government are then actually speaking to the issues that they care about, are actually representing them how they see fit.

What are your thoughts on that, and making, not just the ability to participate in the process of voting, but then also make sure that that government actually looks like something that we want it to look like?

JG: No, I think that's a really good point, because there's two questions. Is there voter access?

But question two is having candidates that truly inspire the people that will vote for them, but then deliver on their promises.

And I'll tell you what, I ran for this office at the age of 33, never having ran for office before, against the only Republican statewide incumbent left in the state of Colorado for a seat a Democrat had not won in 60 years.

And we ended up winning.

And I think in a large part is because I'm just like a normal person.

I have at this point, $186,000 of education debt, I know what it means to be short on money.

I know what it means to feel like you can't fully pay your electrical bill.

And when I ran for office, it was to help as much as I can everyday people, but also to produce results.

And the things that I said I would do, I have done, I also think that's really important.

So, we need to elect more people from diverse backgrounds.

We need to see have more people who are working people.

We have to have more women, we have to have more people of color.

Not only because government should be reflective of the people, but you have different backgrounds.

You know I will always stand, for example, with women, families, and children in protecting the right to reproductive healthcare.

That is a value I bring to this office.

And I know a lot of men are pro-choice also, but having a women's perspective is important, and people from diverse backgrounds will have diverse perspectives, and you would hope there would be better policy outcomes from that.

JC: We are a radio station, so we love music.

You are crisscrossing the state, campaigning and talking about your reelection, and as you are doing so, I imagine there's a lot of time in cars and planes or whatever that might be.

So, I'm going to ask, as you crisscross the state, is there any song or artist that is just your ear worm, sticking with you everywhere you go?

JG: Well, I do love women rappers. I will tell you that.

This is going to be like throwback, but I like Lil’ Kim, I like Nikki Minaj, Missy Elliot.

I also love salsa music, so lots of salsa bands, a little bit of women rappers thrown in. I like oldies too, country (music) I could two step like the best of 'em.

So yes, there's a lot of music and (I) try to keep it really upbeat you know, to get energy from it.

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

Julia Caulfield