People like me don’t usually run for office. I grew up in the mountains of Estes Park and, at times, my family relied on food stamps and food banks. I was the first person in my family to attend a four-year college, then law school. And in 2019, I was sworn in as Colorado’s first Democratic woman secretary of state and as the youngest secretary of state in the nation.
In my first year as secretary of state, I led the largest democracy reform package in the nation, and increased Colorado voting access and election security. We added drop boxes and voting centers, guaranteed voting access on every public college and tribal land, and barred foreign political spending. We also passed automatic voter registration, which led to more than 350,000 eligible Coloradans registering to vote.
When the pandemic hit, Colorado showed the nation what safe and accessible voting looks like. We led increases to election transparency, security and access by implementing statewide ballot tracking, adding even more drop boxes and partnering with the tribes in Colorado. We also assisted states across the nation to adopt Vote by Mail for All, so that eligible Americans could vote safely during the pandemic. Democracy endured, and there was record turnout across the United States among Republican and Democratic voters. Colorado had the second highest turnout in the nation.
The nation is now confronting one of the worst attacks on the right to vote in recent times. From new voter suppression laws to misinformation to threats to election workers, evolving challenges face election administration. Colorado is the nation’s gold standard for elections, but we have not been immune. In fact, I was the first secretary of state in the country to have to address an internal election security breach when Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters compromised her own election system to try to prove conspiracies. I acted decisively, decertifying the voting equipment, asking a judge to bar Peters from overseeing her county's elections, then asking my 2018 Republican opponent to step in to oversee Mesa County elections.
As secretary of state, I will always protect Colorado’s election infrastructure. I will always work to increase voting access and security. And I will always protect the right to vote of every eligible voter. It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Democrat or unaffiliated – everyone in Colorado deserves an equal opportunity to vote.
Jena Griswold is Colorado’s first Democratic woman secretary of state and the youngest to hold this position in the nation.