When it comes to unsubstantiated claims of election fraud circling the 2020 general election, La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee says enough is enough.
Lee, who is registered as unaffiliated, joined Weld County Clerk Carly Koppes, a Republican, and Boulder County Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick, a Democrat, among other county clerks from across Colorado on Sunday at the Denver County Clerk’s Office to call out bad-faith actors falsely alleging election fraud.
She named Colorado Rep. Ron Hanks, the Republican who is touting election fraud in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, as just one of the people spreading disinformation about election fraud without evidence.
Baseless claims of election fraud have run rampant for years, including in the run up to the 2020 general election.
The allegations predominantly stem from certain members and leaders associated with the Republican Party, with former President Donald Trump leading the charge. U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, backed Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him.
“There is no way that anyone can call the 2020 presidential election fair,” she tweeted on Nov. 29, 2020. “We have to make this right.”
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has been indicted on 10 counts of felony and misdemeanor charges alleging she facilitated a security breach of her county’s election system, has also toed the party line of baseless conspiracy theories.
The furor stirred by Trump’s and Republican Party members’ false claims of fraud during the 2020 election manifested in an attempted insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of the former president stormed the U.S. Capitol intent on stopping the certification of election results.
Two years later, the same baseless claims are being used to attack Colorado’s election system, even though the 2020 general election results were never challenged in a Colorado courtroom, Lee said in an interview this week.
Why are Colorado county clerks just now going public with their frustrations? Lee said if there was evidence of election fraud, it should have been brought forward a long time ago. Instead, those alleging wrongdoing just want to protest and rally.
Election season is in full swing with a primary election on June 28, and county clerks have work to do, Lee said. They can’t dwell on speculative conspiracy theories forever.
Additionally, Lee said clerks have responded to reports, baseless as they are, submitted by protesters of the 2020 election.
Lee said the group of clerks who gathered last week in Denver wanted representation from both major parties to get their point across that claims of election fraud are false and misleading, and if people bemoaning the 2020 general election results are certain that fraud occurred, they need to produce evidence.
“Our objective was to say, ‘Look, this has been going on for two years,’” she said. “‘You’re doing rallies and protests. You have produced nothing to district attorneys, attorneys general, law enforcement.’”
Lee said in a speech on Sunday that the gathering of county clerks was “unprecedented” and that county clerks made their demand for evidence while “well-funded conspiracy theorists prepare to gather on our Capitol steps to further share their half-truths and lies.”
Clerks in El Paso, Mesa, Pueblo and Weld counties have received complaints from their constituents that armed canvassers, posing as election officials, have been knocking at residents’ doors demanding to know how their families voted, Lee said.
She noted that a person has the right to privacy around how they cast their vote and that right is constitutionally protected.
Lee hasn’t heard of armed canvassers in La Plata County but was told by her colleagues that their constituents are concerned and angry, thinking the local government was harassing them at their homes.
Canvassers, some carrying firearms, were asking residents at their homes to sign affidavits affirming whether they voted in November 2020, wanting to know who they voted for and how they voted (by mail or in person), Lee said.
Canvassers supposedly compared information they collected to public voting records, she said.
“They say they compared that data and there were all these people that didn’t vote or did vote,” she said. “All of this, but yet they’re not willing to give us any of the actual information.”
She said claims that some counties, including La Plata County, have more registered voters than population are untrue, and in addition, canvassers have cited population data from 2010, which is inaccurate.
“In our county, we all know the growth between 2010 and now is significant,” she said. “... I’m done with this. We need to get the facts out there and say enough’s enough. And move on with doing great elections.”
Koppes said on Sunday that attempts to discredit the general election from two years ago is a “deliberate strategy by those who seek to undermine our elections to create the impression that something is wrong with our election systems,” according to speech notes provided by Lee.
Koppes said it is apparent that bad-faith actors are trying to “create a new election model” where their preferred candidates will thrive.
“These ‘election integrity’ folks want an election model that will suppress voter turnout, including for military voters and voters with a disability, and decrease the accuracy and security of our elections,” she said.
Fitzpatrick said that county clerks want to see high voter participation regardless of political party “because robust and diverse participation is a sign of a healthy democracy.”
She said false claims about the election system hurt everyone, including the candidates and the politicians that bad actors hope to provide with an electoral advantage.
“Representative elections are predicated on the participation of all citizens, regardless of political ideology,” Fitzpatrick said. “If citizens don’t have trust in the process, they are unlikely to take the time to participate.”
The meeting of clerks Sunday also gave county clerks the chance to highlight election initiatives about transparency and efficiency that the Colorado County Clerks Association has worked with legislators and the Secretary of State’s Office on, Lee said.
She said county clerks would like the ability to freely provide images of ballots cast to demonstrate how they were electronically recorded.
Changes to current election law are needed for such an effort, Lee said, and Colorado county clerks are working with legislators to explore that possibility.
Colorado county clerks are also looking to enhance the auditing process for ballot signature verification, she said. Some counties have automated equipment used for signature verification. Others capture ballot signatures with digital imaging equipment and election judges review them. Some counties don’t have access to such equipment and must perform the whole process manually.
Lee said that process should be consistent across the state.
She said there is also room for improvement on voter registration maintenance. The voter registration is updated daily, Lee said, but the process could be more efficient.
Lastly, county clerks need more funding to carry out elections.
“For a primary, it’s 100% on my budget to pay for,” Lee said. “But in a general election, I get 80 cents per voter in reimbursement back from the state.”
Eighty cents reimbursement per voter for state and general elections is not enough, she said.
Lee said she is confident in state and county elections and her colleagues. She said she offers tours during each election and encourages anyone with doubts about the process to schedule a tour to see how it works for themselves.