Oct 17, 2022 - News

Colorado election conspiracies cloud vote as mail ballots arrive

Illustration of a pattern of checkmarks that turn into question marks and vice versa, over a red and blue background with a pattern of ballot elements.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Just as mail ballots go to Colorado voters, the FBI and local election officials are issuing warnings about unprecedented efforts to disrupt the 2022 midterm elections and spread misinformation about the security of the vote.

Threat level: The FBI and Homeland Security analysts identified Colorado as one of the top states for threats to poll workers and put election administrators on heightened alert.

  • Colorado election administrators tell Axios Denver the scale of the threats exceeds the 2020 election, when unsubstantiated election conspiracies led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
  • "It definitely is more intense before this election," Weld County clerk Carly Koppes told us.

Why it matters: Colorado's elections are the "most accessible and secure" in the nation, says Colorado County Clerks Association leader Matt Crane, a Republican.

  • But officials fear widespread misinformation and falsehoods will erode broader public trust in the state's election security.

What they're saying: The persistent misinformation "could incite somebody to do something violent and that's our greatest fear," Crane said.

Between the lines: The prevalence of threats in Colorado is driven in large part by the state's vocal believers of the Big Lie and supporters of indicted Mesa County clerk Tina Peters, whose primary recount is fueling the fire.

  • A recent misstep by Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat who sent 31,000 noncitizens voter registration cards, is only amplifying doubts.

Zoom in: County clerks are reporting an increased number of election deniers applying for positions as poll watchers and election judges, giving them access to sensitive areas that could interfere with voting or ballot processing.

  • In the June primary, the 35 poll watchers in Weld County were all affiliated with election denial organizations, Koppes said. She is adopting a zero-tolerance policy in November's election, promising to dismiss poll watchers who cause a disruption.
  • In Larimer County, the clerk reported bogus phone calls coming from someone who purportedly was an election official.

Of note: The potential threats are making it hard to find poll workers ahead of November in some areas.

  • Clerks have received a huge number of public record requests, including from people seeking the names of election judges.

What to watch: Colorado clerks say they are working closer than ever with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to ensure integrity of the vote.

  • And they are increasing security measures at polling locations to protect their workers. "It is something we are keeping an eye on very closely," Crane said.

Related: Answers to common voting questions in Colorado

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