Conspiracy theories corrupt a Colorado committee

Lawmakers foster doubt about one of the most reliable election systems in the country

Jenna Ellis, a member of President Donald Trump's legal team, listens to Detroit poll worker Jessi Jacobs during an appearance before the Michigan House Oversight Committee on Dec. 2, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan. Rudy Guiliani and the president's legal team are claiming widespread voter fraud in Michigan and other closely contested states in the Nov. 3 presidential election. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Colorado has one of the most reliable election systems in the country. Democrats and Republicans alike once lauded the exceptional security and ease of voting in the state.

Then came 2020.

Since Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump fairly in a landslide, a growing and increasingly emboldened faction of the Republican Party has joined Trump in fostering distrust in American elections. Members of the GOP, especially in battleground states, have been agitating to nullify the vote. The Texas attorney general recently went to the Supreme Court in a bid to cancel democracy in four states that went for Biden, a move the attorney general of one of the targeted states described in a court brief as a “seditious abuse of the judicial process.”

A group of Republican lawmakers in Colorado is now subjecting the legislative process to similar abuse.

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Last week these officials asked the Democratic House Speaker, KC Becker, to form an “election integrity commission” to “uncover fraud,” even though they offered no credible evidence of fraud. Becker correctly rejected the idea as “a reckless misuse of taxpayer dollars and a betrayal of the trust of the people of Colorado.”

But the Republicans, including Minority Leader Patrick Neville and Rep. Dave Williams, circumvented Democratic control of both legislative chambers by appealing to the Legislative Audit Committee. The parties trade the committee’s chair every year, and at the moment Republican Rep. Lori Saine is in charge. She acceded and made the shameful decision to schedule a hearing on “election integrity,” which will take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Audit Committee, according to state statute, is intended to vet state auditor candidates, review the state auditor’s activities, oversee state fiscal and performance audits, and perform other related functions. According to Saine, the purpose of Tuesday’s hearing is to “hear testimony and learn from expert witnesses regarding the integrity of Colorado’s election processes.”

State Rep. Lori Saine speaks on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives on June 11, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Newsline)

The subject of the hearing is a perversion of the committee’s purpose and goes beyond the scope of its statutory duties. But that’s a minor flaw compared to the primary outrage of the hearing. Trump lost the presidential election, and Republicans increasingly lose elections in Colorado. But instead of trying to compete in the democratic process, these Republicans would rather eliminate democracy.

One of the witnesses expected to address the the committee is top Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, who has deep roots in Colorado. For the portion of America that remains opposed to authoritarianism, Ellis, along with co-conspirator Rudy Giuliani, has come to represent the lunacy of the GOP’s election-reversing project. Colorado Republicans will disgrace themselves by inviting Ellis, or anyone who advances lies about the election like those she has spread on TV and social media in recent weeks, to impugn the honest and hardworking local officials, both Democrats and Republicans, who delivered for Colorado a safe and secure election last month.

The country is at a precarious moment. While the Supreme Court declined to hear the Texas case, 17 other Republican attorneys general and 126 Republican members of the House — including Colorado Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn — formally supported the suit in court filings. In other words, they announced in writing that they would prefer to erase the will of American voters and install an autocrat in the White House. The disinformation they’ve propagated has shaken trust in elections for many Americans, and Biden could enter office with tens of millions of voters believing his win was illegitimate. Republicans have focused their campaign of disinformation so far on battleground states, like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona. Now, with the Audit Committee, they’ve secured a venue for their deceit in Colorado.

The Committee comprises four Republicans and four Democrats. “It’s really unfortunate to me that a committee with a long history of bipartisanship is being utilized to appease purely frivolous and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” Becker said. Republicans claim to be using the committee to expose fraud, but the result will be to corrupt the committee.

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