Aug 4, 2022 - News

Colorado recount showcases depth of election skepticism

Illustration of two hands fighting over a torn ballot.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The rare statewide election recount underway in Colorado showcases the depth of skepticism about elections in America, and the power of deniers to upend the system.

Threat level: Tina Peters, the losing candidate in the Republican primary for secretary of state — Colorado's top elections job — paid $256,000 for a recount, despite losing by more than 88,000 votes in June. It's expected to finish Thursday.

Peters — the Mesa County clerk under indictment for tampering with election equipment — raised the money with help from former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

  • She appeared on his radio show on July 25 — a month after her loss — and appealed for donations to cover the cost of the recount. She raised $351,000, with 79% coming from outside Colorado.

What they're saying: "From threatening election officials to insider threats, the efforts to disrupt American elections have not stopped," Jena Griswold, Colorado's Democratic secretary of state, told Axios.

What to watch: In the recount's shadow, a more insidious movement is afoot within a little-known part of the election process.

  • Nationwide, election deniers are telling local officials to reject the certification of final results, as part of a protest against mail-in ballots and how votes are tabulated by machines.

How it works: Once the vote tally is complete in Colorado, results go to a county canvas board for final sign-off.

  • In the June primary, Republican canvass board members in at least three Colorado counties refused to certify the vote, according to the clerk's association, which initially feared a larger revolt.
  • The reason is "grievances about the Colorado election model," says Boulder County clerk Molly Fitzpatrick. "I would not be surprised if this is trend expands to other counties across the state."

Of note: Earlier this year, Colorado changed the law to prevent election deniers from disrupting the system by giving the secretary of state power to certify if there's no reasonable basis for an objection.

  • Matt Crane, director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, says misinformation is driving the movement. "We're glad people seem to be tuning them out," he tells us.
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