Karen Sheek, former Cortez mayor and devoted leader of the League of Women Voters of Montezuma County, recently completed a two-year term as the league’s president in Colorado.
Sheek was the first representative from Southwest Colorado to serve as the league’s president.
“Usually they are from the metro Front Range, so we thought it was a good thing to nominate someone from a rural area as far away from Denver you can get,” Sheek said in an interview with The Journal.
The LWV is a political grassroots network that promotes voter participation and rights, election security, and voter education on issues and candidates.
For more than a century, the women-led organization has worked to empower voters with more than 750 leagues in all 50 states.
The nonpartisan league puts out ballot pamphlets with information about candidates for local, state and national elections.
The pamphlet delves into the nuts and bolts of ballot questions and presents arguments for and against issues that have been put to vote.
“The right to vote is just part of it. You also need an informed electorate,” Sheek said. “The league does not support or oppose any candidate. On some ballot questions, we conduct research and take a position.”
Sheek wrapped up her term during the 2022 League of Women’s Voters National Convention in Denver June 22-26. About 1,250 people attended, 800 of them virtually.
“It was like a full-time job, and very rewarding,” she said of her term, a volunteer position.
During her time as state board president, Sheek helped to navigate the challenges of conducting business during the pandemic, including making technology adjustments to broadcast meetings virtually. The hybrid format offering in-person and virtual meeting attendance will continue, she said.
As president, Sheek promoted the “gold standard” of Colorado’s secure election system and praised its “customer friendly” voter access.
The state election system offers online and in-person registration, a process available until polls close.
Voters who forget to sign their ballot or sign the wrong one are notified and have eight days to correct the mistake.
Election security and voter access protocols are the best in the country, Sheek said. Fraud prevention includes a robust ballot signature verification process and a system that tracks voter activity to prevent double voting.
After the polls close, risk-limiting audits pull batches of ballots to ensure the physical ballot matches the results of vote counting machines.
“Colorado’s election system should be universal nationwide. It’s shocking that it’s not. Voters in our state have high confidence the vote they cast will be accurately counted,” Sheek said.
As president, Sheek helped to draft a Colorado Election Security position paper. Colorado LWV lobbied to have it adopted by the national League of Women Voters, but it was not accepted this year.
She a nationwide election standard that mirrors Colorado’s would revive election confidence in the country.
Election skeptics are “beating the drum” of improprieties but without compelling evidence to convince the courts, Sheek said.
“We help people understand in Colorado we have a robust, secure and reliable election system in place,” she said.
Irene Tynes has taken over as president of the Colorado LWV. Sheek continues to serve on the state LWV board as the liaison to local chapters.
Sheek will continue to serve on the leadership team of the Montezuma County LWV, along with Eleanor Kuhl, Judy and Jack Schuenemeyer, Judi Foran and Betty Janes. The Montezuma County league has 25 to 30 members and is looking for more people to join.
“It’s not just women; men can join too. We all need to work together to protect our democracy with an informed electorate and right to vote,” Sheek said.
Ongoing goals of the Montezuma LWV include:
- Promoting public use of vote411.org The website offers information on ballots nationwide.
- Continue holding government information meetings featuring county and state public officials and groups.
- Conduct a voter registration campaign for the upcoming midterm elections.
- Develop information ballot pamphlets to distribute before the midterm elections.
- Continue to conduct business meetings in-person and virtually. Information and notices of upcoming events are available on the league’s website and Facebook page.