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Colorado secretary of state’s robocall reminding millions of voters to cast their ballots cost $50,000

The call comes after Jena Griswold faced criticism last year when her office spent more than $1 million to run a TV ad featuring her and former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, in the months leading up to the 2022 election
Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, responds to a question during a candidate debate, Oct. 11, 2022, on the campus of the University of Denver in southeast Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Millions of Colorado voters Thursday evening received a robocall urging them to cast their November 2023 ballot from Colorado’s top election official, who faced criticism last year for spending money on a similar messaging campaign aimed at boosting turnout and combating election conspiracies.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office says registered voters received a call from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold if their ballots hadn’t been returned and processed by 1 p.m. Thursday.

That’s more than 3 million people.

Coloradans who already cast their 2023 ballots may have received the 30-second robocall from Griswold, a Democrat, if their ballot hadn’t yet been opened by their county clerk. For instance, a Colorado Sun reporter who cast their ballot Wednesday still received the robocall.

“This is Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold,” the recorded message started.

It ended with: “Colorado’s elections are safe and secure. Thank you for making your voice heard in the 2023 coordinated election.”

The campaign cost $50,000, according to Griswold’s office, which declined to comment further on the call.

Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said that not all county clerks, who manage elections, were notified about the calls in advance.

“We are hearing from voters about it,” Crane said. “It appears that people who cast their ballots some time ago are receiving this message. We’ve had clerks who returned their ballots or clerks’ family members who have returned their ballots a week or so if not more ago, and they’ve gotten the calls.”

Crane added: “There are quite a few clerks who are upset and disappointed by it.”

The call comes at a time when clerks are busy dealing with Tuesday’s election.

“The last thing that we want to see happen is voter confusion created around that messaging,” he said. “We know that, ultimately, this is going to fall mostly on the clerks who have to take the phone calls from angry citizens.”

But Wendy Holmes, a spokeswoman for Douglas County, said the county clerk’s office there was notified of the call before it was made and that the county’s election officials didn’t get questions from voters about it.

Ballots must be received by county clerks by 7 p.m. Tuesday to be counted. It’s too late to mail a ballot back in, but voters can drop off their ballots at a drop box or vote in person.

Voters can track the status of their ballots by signing up for BallotTrax. They have the option of being sent an automated text or email when their ballot is received and when it is officially counted by their county clerk.

Through 11:30 p.m. Thursday, roughly 650,000 of the nearly 4 million active, registered voters in Colorado had returned their ballots.

Griswold came under fire last year when her office spent more than $1 million to run a TV ad featuring her and former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, in the months leading up to the 2022 election. The ad was aimed at combating voting conspiracies, but critics said it amounted to free air time for Griswold, who was running for reelection, and for Williams, who was running to be Colorado Springs’ mayor.

Griswold won her reelection bid. Williams’ bid fell short.

The ad prompted Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, to add a provision into an election bill this year prohibiting the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office from using state or federal funds to pay for advertising that prominently features declared candidates for federal, state or local office.

Griswold is not currently running for any position.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office awarded a $1 million contract to Marketing for Change for advertising ahead of the 2024 election aimed at encouraging people to vote and assuring voters that the state’s elections are secure. The company has offices in Virginia, Orlando and Denver.

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