Colorado Secretary Of State Backtracks After Asking Media To Delay Reporting Election Night ‘Results’

October 2, 2020
Primary Day Voting Ballot Drop Off Denver GRISWOLDPrimary Day Voting Ballot Drop Off Denver GRISWOLDHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold at the Denver Elections Division’s drive through ballot-drop-off station at Swansea Recreation Center on Primary Election Day June 30, 2020. In remarks, she praised the city’s mobile voting facility there.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold apologized on Thursday night just hours after her attempt to launch a nationwide conversation about election night backfired. 

Griswold had earlier called on “national media executives” not to make projections or announce any election results on election night. She later clarified that she was not asking media outlets to suppress vote tallies, but instead to refrain from calling the race while results were outstanding.

"I recognize how that could be read both ways, and just in general the tweet was confusing," she said in an interview. "That’s why I took it down and issued an apology."

Griswold is the top elected official responsible for administering elections in Colorado. She originally said that the “#PressPause” campaign was necessary for an “unprecedented” election where President Donald Trump “has telegraphed that he may claim victory on election night, even when millions of ballots will not have been counted.”

But the plan quickly met criticism both from journalists and political opponents. “She should be fired just for saying that,” said conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham as she hosted Republican Congressman Ken Buck in a live televised interview on Thursday night. “It’s not up to her to say what the media or anyone else says on election night.”

“Well, when you’re a progressive, you can tell the rest of the world what to do,” replied Buck, who has been attacking Griswold this week over a separate elections issue.

The criticism extended down to the local level. Steve Fenberg, the Democratic majority leader in the state senate, said that he “strongly” disagreed with Griswold’s statement.

“This will only cause mass confusion and creates an opening for reckless behavior from the President. Demanding journalists to withhold verifiable facts or rational projections is counter to how a free democracy works,” he tweeted.

Within hours, Griswold began to walk back her effort. First, she deleted the tweet that called on media to report neither “projections” nor “results.” The remaining messages focused on the idea that media outlets should refrain from announcing a winner.

Later, Griswold deleted the rest of the messages. At 11 p.m., she issued an press release: “I would like to apologize for a tweet I put out earlier tonight. It was confusing, and the point I was trying to make was made inartfully."

She continued: "My intention was to draw attention to the fact that other states across the nation are drastically adopting new voting procedures, and it is critically important that these changes be taken into account in election night reporting. Unlike Colorado, some states may not be able to process ballots until Election Day or after.  A free press is a key pillar of our democracy, and I have full confidence the media will handle this professionally and accurately."

Griswold has built up her national profile during this contentious election year by pushing back against President Trump's often baseless attempts to undermine people's faith in the elections.

That effort has put her in the center of political fights in recent weeks. The fracas came at the end of a week when Congressman Buck and other conservatives have attacked Griswold on the basis of a discredited CBS4 news report. 

The attack focuses on a postcard sent by Griswold’s office that informed people how to register to vote. The informational postcards went to some people who are not qualified to vote, but the card itself would not have allowed them to vote.

Would-be voters have to prove their eligibility when registering. The postcard mailings do not reflect inaccuracy in the voter rolls; they were sent based on separate lists. Colorado’s previous Republican secretary of state sent similar postcards.

Griswold said she would continue to push back on warnings from the president and others about election security, and that she would continue to promote Colorado's election model nationwide.

"I wish we were not in a circumstance where the president of the United States cast doubt and spread false narratives, but we are," she said.

She would not resume the #PressPlay campaign, she said.