Repeating false fraud claims, dozens oppose changes to Colorado election auditing rules

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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, tweeted on June 17 that her office “had just released rules banning mock election audits in the state of Colorado.”

“We will not jeopardize the state’s electoral security and perpetuate the Big Lie,” she added, referring to the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. “Fraud has no place in Colorado.”

Emergency rules adopted by the Griswold office require that anyone accessing components of a county’s voting system “must have passed a full criminal background check and be either an employee of the county clerk, an employee of the supplier. of the voting system, an employee of the Secretary of State Office, or an appointed electoral judge.

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Griswold said the changes were released in response to unprecedented third-party requests for access to voting material and would help prevent situations like the one that occurred in Maricopa County, Ariz., Where Senators state hired the inexperienced Cyber ​​Ninjas company to examine ballots and voting materials in a widely criticized survey of the presidential election results.

Jena Griswold, then Secretary of State-elect for Colorado, at the Democratic Watch Party in downtown Denver, November 6, 2018 (AAron Ontiveroz / The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Now Griswold wants to make the changes permanent as part of an update to the state’s electoral rules.

The Secretary of State’s rule-making hearings are normally relatively calm affairs, but the persistent lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen – and the associated misconceptions about the Colorado election – have led to disputes. dozens of people to testify against the proposed rule changes for more than four hours on Wednesday.

“I publicly challenge any public official to call me a conspiracy theorist when I talk about my concerns about our electoral and electoral system,” Colorado resident Shawn Smith said during the online hearing, calling many of the proposed changes. of “false” and “unconstitutional”. “

“They are the gold standard when it comes to fraud. That’s all they’re the gold standard at, ”said fellow resident Linda Bissett, berating comments from Republican county clerks who have defended Colorado’s electoral system as a“gold standard“for the country.

Officials did not identify any cases of electoral fraud that could have influenced the results of the 2020 presidential election, and multiple court challenges to the 2020 election, brought by supporters of former President Donald Trump, were rejected until Supreme Court of the United States.

Joe Biden won Colorado by a significant margin in 2020, and the state has not been a national focal point for Trump allies challenging the election results. Yet some people in Colorado – including some Republicans state legislators – called for an investigation into the state electoral system.

Many people who testified on Tuesday reiterated the calls, denouncing the proposed ban on third-party audits.

“All that does for us is to make it look like there is something hidden,” said Karen Seibold.

Election officers process the ballots at the Arapahoe County polling center in Littleton, November 3, 2020 (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Lobby to increase the transparency of elections

As executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, Matt Crane represents the 64 county officials who run elections statewide. Crane told Newsline in an interview that third-party election audits would arguably have been banned with or without Griswold’s emergency rules.

“Overall, Colorado law was already pretty clear in terms of what people can do in terms of verifying elections on their own and what they can’t,” Crane said. “For example, ballots, paper ballots, can be discovered under (the Colorado Open Records Act), but signatures are not.”

“So, you know, if somebody wants to pay money to a county to have access to the ballots, they could do it in a very controlled way,” Crane continued. “It will be as the county dictates. But… someone couldn’t go back and look at all the election ballot envelopes and compare the signature there with what’s on file.

The County Clerks Association supports most of the proposed rule changes, Crane said, although it disputes some of the new signature verification requirements. The proposed rules would require, among other changes, that counties keep track of the acceptance or rejection rates of ballot signatures by individual election judges.

Clerks support the implementation of a “more robust and consistent signature verification audit across the state,” Crane said, a process they hope to put in place in meetings with election officials. ‘Status as of August 12.

“We would much prefer that all the rules regarding signature verification audits wait until the end of the work of our committee, where we can work on a policy that is more robust and that strengthens the integrity of our elections,” Crane said.

Election officers process the ballots at the Arapahoe County polling center in Littleton, November 3, 2020 (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

In an effort to further increase transparency, the County Clerks Association is also advocating that all images of ballots and recordings of votes cast from the 2020 presidential election be made available to everyone online. Several counties, including El Paso and Pueblo, have already done so, Crane said, but cost remains an issue for other counties as personally identifiable information must be removed from public ballot footage.

“Writing will be a very important part of this conversation because it is very labor-intensive and expensive,” the County Clerks Association wrote in a statement. june letter to the bipartite electoral advisory committee. “Without automated options and / or process changes, many counties will not be able to provide these records for free. “

Threats, accusations still in the air

Although Trump lost the White House more than six months ago, Crane said county clerks were still receiving threats from people who believed Colorado’s voting system was fatally flawed.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the feeling of grievance was palpable.

“No private entity can audit itself and then claim to be the gold standard,” said Shawn DeMarco, referring to the risk-limiting audit process used in Colorado. “The elections belong to us, the people. Transparency is how we the people trust our government.

Griswold has repeatedly championed Colorado’s risk-limiting audit process, which was used for the first time under Griswold’s predecessor, Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, and is widely praised by election security experts.

“Colorado is considered the safest state to vote, in part because of our use of bipartite risk-limiting audits,” Griswold said in an emailed statement to Newsline. “A risk-limiting audit is conducted by bipartisan teams of election judges after each federal and state election. Colorado’s voting system has undergone more risk-limiting audits than any other voting system in the country.

The proposed rules permanently banning third-party audits would not affect the risk-limiting audit process, Griswold added.

“Allowing open access to voting materials can cost a state millions of dollars to replace it once it can no longer be verified as safe,” she said in explaining the rationale for these proposed rules. .

Threats and requests for election audits, although infrequent, are reported in Colorado

Fremont County Clerk Justin Grantham, a Republican, told Newsline that many people claiming widespread fraud or flaws in the electoral system do not seem to understand how elections work.

For example, several people have testified against a proposed change that would remove the requirements dictating the proper chain of custody for voting machines, saying it shows the desire of the Secretary of State’s office to reduce transparency. But the rule change simply eliminated outdated references to old equipment that is no longer in use, Grantham said.

Some people have also protested against a scheduled software update which they said would remove evidence of fraud from the 2020 election. However, Grantham said county clerks were instructed to back up all this data before starting the process. software update, which includes bug fixes and other upgrades.

Grantham said those concerned about the integrity of the elections should contact their county clerks to learn more about the process. This includes Republican State Representative Ron Hanks of Cañon City, who has publicly questioned integrity of the 2020 election, and to whom Grantham wrote a scathing letter on July 28.

“I am truly surprised that you have never taken the time to have a conversation with the electoral officer of the county in which you reside and represent,” Grantham wrote. “The disinformation disseminated led to multiple threats against the clerks, including myself. Serious threats have occurred in your own district due to misinformation. This forced an overhaul of the Chaffee County Clerk’s office to protect her and her staff from threats of violence. “

As of August 5, Grantham said he had not received a response from Hanks.


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