Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | Audit hearing reaffirmed Colorado’s election integrity

Written by on December 18, 2020

We keep hearing from Republicans across the country: “Joe Biden and the Democrats stole the election!” This comes as accusations – some merited, some not – fly over how the 2020 elections were handled in many states.

Before Election Day, I wrote and spoke a lot about my own concerns for election integrity in states rushing to expand mail-in voting. I wasn’t arguing into the ether with some vague sense of what they should do; rather, I presented specific insights from Colorado’s experience.

I touted our state as an example for others to follow. I endorsed safeguards, controls and processes that have become standard here because they work. Given this, I’ve been both surprised and a little stunned at the level of angst and doubt among many Coloradans about our state’s election process.

That’s why I was encouraged by Tuesday’s eight-hour hearing on “Colorado Election Integrity” held by the General Assembly’s Legislative Audit Committee. It is important for Colorado voters to hear from different voices about the strengths and weaknesses of our system, ideas for improvement and more. After listening to most of the hearing, I came away believing the committee largely affirmed Colorado’s status as leader in guaranteeing election integrity. Legislators did Coloradans a service.

Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis, several county clerks, other election experts and data analysts testified. While Secretary of State Jena Griswold refused to participate, her two most recent and more experienced predecessors – Wayne Williams and Scott Gessler – both shared expertise. This was the kind of hearing we should have every two years to reassure Coloradans.

Ellis, herself a Colorado resident, kicked things off by encouraging legislators to ensure free, fair and transparent elections. Her role, it seems, wasn’t to lay out any specific claims, but to help set the table for what was to come – to encourage inquiry.

In their testimonies, Gessler and Williams – who implemented and then improved Colorado’s vote-by-mail system – and other election officials took the ball and ran with it. I won’t detail the safeguards here, but needless to say, they emphasized the right things. Moreover, while expressing confidence, several witnesses suggested at least a dozen cogent, thoughtful and specific proposals to enhance things like signature verification, voter list maintenance, ballot harvesting protections and more. Legislators should craft legislation based on these informed recommendations.

There was also testimony concerning the Dominion ballot tabulators used by all but two Colorado counties. This portion was puzzling. Witnesses discussed security vulnerabilities and potential for bad actors to exploit those vulnerabilities. Yet as Rep. Rod Bockenfeld pointed out, some of this testimony directly contradicted both Gessler and Williams.

Dominion’s system was selected by a committee of election administrators, political party officials and other civic stakeholders that set standards which Dominion subsequently met; it was certified by a federally certified independent auditor. As Williams noted, Colorado’s Dominion systems have undergone 868 pre- or post-election manual audits. They’ve passed every single one. Dominion’s machines are not connected to the internet and have multiple layers of security and procedures in place.

“There is no one in Moscow, nobody in Beijing, nobody in Antifa, nobody in the Trump campaign that has changed a single ballot in the state of Colorado because you physically can’t do that,” Williams testified. “Unless you broke into the clerk’s office, you bypassed the cyberlocks, you somehow circumvented the 24/7 video surveillance and the security protocols that are in place. That is the only way you can do it because they’re not connected to the internet.”

Even so, we should still look into claims to alleviate concerns and boost confidence. Gessler offered a savvy idea: “Clerks in Colorado should do a full audit – hand recount or an audit from a different vendor – to put to rest, hopefully put to rest, some of these questions about Dominion, or ultimately it would in fact corroborate.” This is both reasonable and wise counsel.

Tuesday’s hearing took place a couple weeks after 4th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, chairman of the state GOP, held a panel of current Republican clerks which affirmed the integrity of our election system. For Colorado’s part, we can be confident our elections were not rigged. The facts support need for improvement, yes, but we should not beat up on a system that works well and that other states should use as a roadmap.

Besides, if anyone has reason to be worried about election malfeasance, it’s three former election officials who recently lost: Williams (2018), former Arapahoe Clerk Matt Crane (2018) and former Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Taheri (State Senate 2020). Yet, each vouches for our system.

If Republicans hope to advance in Colorado and not become a permanent minority, they must focus on ascertaining why they lost, getting their own party in order and identifying and helping good candidates before an election.

Post-election excuses do nobody any good.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s December 18 column at Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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