Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is running for re-election in November. While in Telluride recently meeting voters for a fundraising campaign, she spoke with reporter Julia Caulfield about why she’s running, the importance of election security and Lil Kim.
Griswold said she was not the typical person to run for office and hold office.
JG: So I grew up in Drake, Colorado, in Estes Park, in a cabin with an addiction outside, sometimes on food stamps, sometimes we went to food banks, and I started to work in the summer after seventh grade.
And working so young, I really saw that a lot of families in Colorado were struggling, and that inspired me to be the first in my family to go to four-year college and then law school.
And truly, I bring the value of everyday people, whether you’re from rural Colorado or big city, whether you’re wealthy or know, blue-collar, whatever your skin color or zip code. , should have a say in the development of our country, and that say begins at 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 did as Secretary of State.
I have tried to always be a champion of voting access and voting rights.
I’m the youngest secretary of state in the nation, the first elected Democrat (as Colorado’s secretary of state) in 60 years.
And I hope to continue to defend ordinary citizens’ right to vote in a second term.
JC: Across the country, we have all seen the importance of elections and how contentious they can sometimes be, and the importance of safe and fair elections.
In your role, what are you really proud of or what do you think you did well to ensure Colorado is able to have fair and safe and secure elections?
JG: Well, I increased access a bit.
So, for example, we now have 65% more secure ballot boxes.
We partnered with the tribes and saw an increase of about 20% in the tribal vote.
I passed a law to guarantee access to all public universities and tribal lands.
I embraced Automatic Voter Registration, a program that registered 350,000 Coloradans, Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated (voters) eligible to vote.
And when things started to change in this country, when we started to see this massive attack on voting rights and on elections, I always stood up for the voters of Colorado.
Whether that means intervening in Mesa County, when rogue county clerk Tina Peters compromised her own voting equipment, to ensure voters in Democratic-leaning counties have the elections they deserve as citizens of the Colorado.
I will always protect our electoral infrastructure and the right to vote.
JC: Where do you think we still need to go? Obviously, nothing is perfect, what perhaps are the 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 you can always do more.
In 2020, just to give you a data point, 86.5% of active voters voted amid the pandemic.
So our elections are going very well.
But that said, you know, I look forward to continuing to increase access.
We are already planning for next year’s legislative session and considering 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 every Coloradan has a full franchise in that state, and we’ve been very successful in partnering with the tribes, and we can do more.
We also need to continue to shine a light on money in politics, so we are planning in my office to improve reporting on campaign spending, reporting on lobbying.
And to tell you a bit, the misfortune is that we have not been immune to attacks on democracy here.
We have two county clerks who 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 threats to election workers.
On election day, we saw a voter in Pueblo trying to hack voting equipment.
We will continue to see these threats evolve and I will continue to act decisively.
From those county clerks, ensuring we decertify compromised voting materials and appoint people to oversee elections who need them, to threats against election workers.
This year alone I passed legislation and passed the nation’s first insider threat law, it is now a crime to compromise voting materials.
We have made it a crime to threaten or retaliate against an election worker for doing their job.
We have also prohibited the carrying of firearms within 100 feet of a voting center where you drop your ballot or for which you process your ballot.
We will therefore continue to rise to the challenges and ensure that our elections remain the best in the country.
JC: You talk about the importance of having access to the vote and making sure Coloradans feel like they’re part of that process.
But we also see in Colorado, across the country, people who, so maybe they can vote, but once that happens, they don’t necessarily feel like politicians or members government then really talk about the issues that matter to them, in fact represent them as they see fit.
What do you think of that, and what do you do about not only being able to participate in the voting process, but also making sure that this government actually looks like something we want it to look like?
JG: No, I think that’s a very good point, because there are two questions. Is there voter access?
But the second question is to have candidates who really inspire people who will vote for them, but who then deliver on their promises.
And I’ll tell you, I ran for this position at the age of 33, never having run before, against Colorado’s only statewide Republican incumbent for a seat that a Democrat had not won in 60 years.
And we ended up winning.
And I think a lot of that is because I’m like a normal person.
I have at this point, $186,000 in student debt, I know what it means to be short of money.
I know what it means to feel like you can’t fully pay your electricity bill.
And when I ran for office, it was to help ordinary people as much as possible, but also to produce results.
And the things that I said I would do, I did, I also think that’s really important.
So we need to elect more people from diverse backgrounds.
We need to see more people working.
We need to have more women, we need to have more people of color.
Not only because the government has to reflect the people, but you have a different background.
You know that I will always stand, for example, with women, families and children to protect the right to reproductive health care.
That’s a value I bring to this office.
And I know a lot of men are also pro-choice, but it’s important to have a female perspective, and people from diverse backgrounds will have diverse perspectives, and you hope there will be better political outcomes to from that.
JC: We are a radio station, so we love music.
You’re criss-crossing the state, campaigning, and talking about your re-election, and while you’re doing that, I imagine there’s a lot of time in cars and planes or whatever.
So, I’m going to ask you, as you criss-cross the state, is there a song or artist that’s just your earworm, that goes with you everywhere you go?
JG: Well, I love female rappers. I am going to tell you.
It’s gonna be like a throwback, but I love Lil’ Kim, I love Nikki Minaj, Missy Elliot.
I also like salsa music, so lots of salsa bands, a few female rappers too. I also like oldies, country (music), I could take two steps like the best of them.
So yeah, there’s a lot of music and (I try) to keep it really upbeat, you know, to get some energy out of it.
This KOTO story was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, including Aspen Public Radio.