Lori Mitchell, Chaffee’s incumbent clerk and recorder, answers our questions – by Jan Wondra

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As the November 8, 2022 general election approaches, Voice of the Valley of the Ark has been in contact with candidates running for the Chaffee County office, asking them general questions about introducing themselves to the public and offering them the opportunity to respond in writing. Ark Valley Voice (AVV) sent the same five questions to candidates vying for the position of county clerk and recorder.

While Chaffee County Clerk and Archivist Lori Mitchell, a Democrat, may need no introduction to many residents, others who have needed to access or save records county may not realize they have interacted with a busy records office. While the questions are more focused on new applicants running for a position they don’t hold, Mitchell opted to answer them.

Below are Mitchell’s answers to our questions. It should be noted that these are the candidate’s answers and opinions and do not represent Voice of the Valley of the Ark. In reality, AVV makes no mention of a candidate of any kind.

Q. Introduce yourself – who are you, how long have you lived in the county and what is your background? What is the most important thing about you that the public should know?

Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell is running for re-election.Courtesy photo.

A. I am sixth generation from Chaffee County. I grew up here. My parents grew up here, moved out and came back here when I was eight. My ancestry actually goes back to the Mayflower, so we’ve been here for a while.

Of course, I am now a Certified Election/Registration Administrator (CERA) through the Election Center, National Association of Election Officials. [Clerk Mitchell’s CERA designation is the country’s highest professional achievement for election officials.]

Q. Why are you running for Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder?

A. I’m running for re-election so I can continue to defend American democracy. My role is all about democracy. I continue to bet on the diversity of work. I really enjoy the diversity of this work helping my fellow citizens navigate their local government.

Q. What do you see as the role of the county clerk and recorder in the administration of county and state records and processes and what do you want to accomplish if you are selected as the clerk and recorder for this county?

A. This work is much more than what people think. We have the highest customer contact of any county department. We’re going to touch everyone’s life at some point, whether it’s registering a vehicle, registering a boat, getting a document registered, getting a marriage license. People don’t realize the complex things we need to know to work in this office. It doesn’t happen overnight. I started working in the clerk’s office and the then county clerk and clerk was a mentor to me.

We get nearly 16,000 voters and over 30,000 registered vehicles in the county. This summer we did a lot of marriage licenses – double the normal number because Fremont County had a cyberattack, so everyone comes here and we process for them. In fact, as I’ve been out in the community talking with people, I’ve lost count of people saying oh yeah, you just had our wedding in August.

The deluge of public records requests we have received since the 2020 election and false allegations of voter fraud have been a concern. We are bombarded. We are not the only county overwhelmed by an increase in public records requests for information about elections and processes. The impact is almost like a denial of service; they want to bog you down so badly that you can’t do the important work you need to do. The requests seem well coordinated; identical with one or two words modified.

The questions focused on poll watchers and insider threats. We want people to look at the system, we take pride in the work we do. This is an important part of the electoral process, but observers and monitors must follow the rules, they cannot interrupt the process – they are “watchers” to verify that actions have taken place…

Q. What are your best qualifications as a candidate? what makes you the best candidate right now for this role?

A. I was Chaffee County Clerk for eight years. I was elected in 2014. But at that time I had been working in the office since 2011. I think I am the best candidate, I hope so. Every day I do the best I can. I know what I would like to see in a government office and that’s what we offer: transparency, efficiency, accuracy, respect. We all seek to help our citizens navigate their interactions with government. We want to be the best, — the most useful. All of my staff are empowered to find solutions for clients.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges of stepping into this role and why do you think they exist?

A. The biggest challenge is the diversity of work (it’s not just the elections). All departments, each with their own processes. As we head into this election, clerks across Colorado are bracing and bracing for an onslaught of Holocaust deniers registering to be election judges, observers and candidates.

Voice of the Valley of the Ark Applicant Forum

Mark your calendars for October 19. AVV and his nonprofit Truth Has a Voice Foundation will be hosting a Chaffee County Candidates Forum from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, October 19 in the Salida City Council Chambers in the Touber Building, located at 448 East First Street.

Editor’s notes:

Mitchell was recently interviewed by The Denver postt regarding threats to the upcoming elections based on AVV reports, and MSNBC Cable TV host Joy Reid interviewed Mitchell earlier this week on the same issue. In 2018, Clerk Mitchell was elected president of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

According to Election Center Director Tim Mattice; “The CERA designation is the highest designation available to election and voter registration officials. Clerk Mitchell and her class of 69 election professionals have truly demonstrated their commitment to improving the electoral process in Colorado throughout their careers. This is an outstanding achievement and Chaffee County is indeed fortunate to have Clerk Mitchell as one of the nation’s top designated election professionals.

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