Colorado’s ‘Gold Standard’ Election System To Be Subject Of GOP-Led Committee Hearing

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
In the ballot counting room at Denver Elections Division headquarters on Primary night, June 30, 2020.

Colorado’s election integrity is the subject of a special hearing by the legislature’s bipartisan Audit Committee next week, and some fear it could end up reinforcing groundless claims against the state's system.

The outgoing chair of the Legislative Audit Committee Chair, Republican Rep. Lori Saine of Dacono, convened the hearing, in a move that surprised some of the panel’s Democratic members. They question the reason for it, and fear it could amplify baseless claims about widespread voter fraud in the state and country.

Saine announced the hearing just days after seven of her Republican House colleagues penned a letter asking the Democratic Speaker of the House to form a special committee on election integrity and conduct an independent forensic audit of the Dominion Voting Systems technology used in Colorado.

Speaker KC Becker called the request a “dangerous stunt.”

Without the Speaker’s support the request likely would have gone nowhere. But under legislative rules, control of the Audit Committee alternates between Republicans and Democrats, no matter which party is in power. That gave Saine the unique ability to call the hearing on her own.

In a news release announcing the Dec. 15 hearing, Saine said that “legitimate concerns have been raised in Colorado and across the country about the integrity of our elections, and the Legislative Audit Committee will gather to listen to the facts and, if necessary, allow evidence to guide the committee to any appropriate policy conclusions or recommendations.”

However, a state-mandated audit of this year’s election in Colorado did not uncover any problems and one Republican county clerk recently noted, the state’s voting system is considered “the gold standard” by many nationally.

Saine said the scope of the hearing will be limited and that she’s not going into the hearing with any assumptions about whether or not it could uncover any major issues with how the state runs elections.

“I’m going to keep my mind open right now. People may want to be prepared for some good news. We’ve been doing mail in ballots since 2013,” she noted.

Republican Wayne Williams, Colorado’s former Secretary of State who oversaw the transition to all-mail ballots, is among those invited to testify on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Williams has long been a staunch advocate for the state’s voting systems.

“Anytime you can let people know the processes you follow and why they should have confidence in Colorado's voting systems, is an appropriate use of time,” he said. “I want people to know that Colorado’s system is designed with a number of precautions to ensure that it's done accurately and that they should have confidence that their votes are counted accurately here in Colorado.”

Williams noted that Dominion machines have been tested in 62 Colorado counties at least 868 times and have passed every test. By law, all Colorado counties conduct risk-limiting audits after each election, double-checking the scanning machines’ tallies against the actual votes on the original paper ballots.

Saine declined to release the names of others who will speak at Tuesday’s hearing, citing personal threats some have faced.

As President Donald Trump continues to attack the results in the 2020 general election, he and his supporters have singled out Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems as the subject of baseless conspiracy theories.

Republicans in the state have put out different messages on whether they believe the presidents’ claims about widespread fraud. The head of Colorado’s Republican Party, Rep. Ken Buck, has tried to reassure members of the GOP that they can trust the state’s system. Buck said it’s important to provide facts and evidence to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories. However, he also joined with the majority of his caucus in a letter supporting Texas’ unprecedented effort to overturn the election results in four other states.

Tthe Supreme Court rejected Texas' case saying it had no standing.

While the president hasn’t turned his attention to Colorado, his drumbeat of fraud claims have resonated with supporters here. In their letter to the Speaker, the seven GOP Reps. stated, “Recent nationwide reports and calls from our constituents have cast doubt on the integrity and security of voting systems.”

When Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs, one of the letter’s signers, tweeted out news of Tuesday’s hearing, it was clear from the responses how deeply divided people are on the issue.

“This is great to hear. I thought my state of Colorado was out of the fight. Well done,” one follower replied.

“So we can reiterate what we already know — that Colorado's election process is the most secure in the country? This is just pathetic,” another countered.

This hearing will occur after all formal steps of the election process have wrapped up. The Colorado Secretary of State has already certified the state’s election results and on Monday, Dec. 14, the state's electors will cast their votes for president at the state Capitol.