This year the Colorado Election Official Certification program turns 15! In 2004, then Secretary of State, Donetta Davidson, recognized the need for better training and education of Colorado Election Officials to ensure uniformity in best practices, administering elections, and interpreting laws and rules. The Colorado Legislature then gave the Secretary of State authority to create a training program. In the spring of 2006, county election officials who attended the required number of classes were granted “certified election official” status for the first time. The program has changed significantly over the years. When the program began taking shape, classes were held in-person at large conferences over two and three days. National and local experts were brought in to present classes. In-person training continued through the years as part of the county clerks’ regional meetings with the Secretary of State’s staff traveling around the state to teach timely topics.
In 2010, under the direction of former Secretary of State, Bernie Buescher, the department implemented online training. Five of the classroom trainings were converted into self-paced, online courses that election officials could take at their convenience and at no cost. The program now includes 17 online classes with topics ranging from voter registration to canvass, and everything in between.
The certification program was consolidated in 2013 to require at least one in-person class and 13 online classes for certification. This made certification more accessible and allowed county election offices to get most of their staff certified by reducing the need for large travel, budgets and time away from the office. The classroom trainings still allow for face-to-face interaction and discussion, while the online classes offer flexibility and on-demand learning options. The Secretary of State’s office still conducts in-person trainings at least once each year in all four regions of the state.
The certification program has continued to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretary of State’s office continues “in-person” training using live web meetings, discussion groups, and other online learning tools that allow participants to interact with one another while receiving instruction on laws, rules, and procedures that impact their work. Currently, 366 people are Certified Election Officials. This includes county clerks, deputy clerks,
and other professional employees in the clerks’ offices, and 20 members of the Secretary of State’s staff. Those who are certified are required to take four classes each year as continuing education. This ensures that they “refresh” on important election topics. Those who achieve certification and who continue to maintain their certification have had dozens of hours of instruction and many opportunities to share and learn best practices.
Twenty-one people who achieved “Certified Election Official” status that first year (2006) are still working in elections today. The Secretary of State’s office continues to use innovative and creative training techniques along with new technology to ensure the highest quality training. New courses are added to the catalog
each year so that election officials have the most up-to-date information they need. The
certification program has been instrumental in making Colorado’s election officials some of the best in the nation.