City clerk dealing with voters’ changing expectations

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Kathryn Young, Colorado Springs’ longtime city clerk, is weathering an unusually contentious campaign season. The Business Journal asked for her thoughts.

How long have you been city clerk? How has the job changed since you’ve been there?

I was appointed city clerk in May 1994. The duties of the job have remained consistent. The city clerk conducts municipal elections, issues business and liquor licenses, and is the official record keeper and custodian of the following: the corporate seal of the city, agendas, minutes, ordinances, resolutions, election records, contracts and agreements, business license records and annexations.

One of the main changes I have seen is the movement towards more electronic record-keeping. One of our projects, as time and staffing permits, is to scan many of our historical documents so they can also be made available to the public electronically. In terms of elections, the technology today has required us to move from punch cards and butterfly ballots to electronically scanned ballots.

I also believe the citizen’s expectation regarding election results has changed. They want instant results, without realizing there are still checks and balances that must be put in place to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the election is maintained.

Please explain how the recent confusion about corporate contributions to city candidates came about.

Quite frankly, the question of whether corporate contributions were allowed in our municipal elections had never been raised until this year. Past candidates were operating under the assumption that corporate contributions were permitted since Colorado Springs is a home-rule city. The city attorney advised the Council to clarify their intention to permit corporate contributions in municipal elections, which they did so through a resolution adopted March 8, 2011.

Has this election cycle differed from past years? If so, how?

In terms of election processes, this election is no different than any other election I have conducted. Perhaps because this is the election of our first-ever “strong mayor,” there has been more interest in this election than in some past municipal elections.

It will be interesting to see the voter participation percentage in this election compared to past municipal elections. Certainly the mail-in ballot requires candidates and their committees to manage their campaigns differently, but our processes have remained consistent through the years.