Briefline

GOP ‘election integrity’ bill backed by conspiracy theorists defeated by Colorado Democrats

By: - February 28, 2023 1:41 pm

Douglas County election workers process primary election ballots in Castle Rock on June 28, 2022. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Lawmakers in the Colorado House of Representatives on Monday defeated a Republican proposal for a sweeping overhaul of state election laws backed by conspiracy theorists who baselessly allege that recent election results are illegitimate.

House Bill 23-1170, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Ken DeGraaf of Colorado Springs, would have required elections officials in Colorado’s 64 counties to count votes using a “distributed ledger,” a decentralized verification system similar to blockchain technology. DeGraaf said the bill would allow any voter to verify that their vote was counted for their chosen candidate.

“Today our election system is premised on demand of trust,” DeGraaf said. “But you cannot demand somebody trust something that is inherently untrustworthy.”

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But Caleb Thornton, a legal, policy and rulemaking manager for the Colorado secretary of state’s office, said the “unvetted and untested components” proposed by the bill were both impractical and unnecessary.

“The department has been unable to find any technology currently in existence that could be deployed for use in the way required by this bill,” Thornton said. “Colorado’s election system operates with several layers of safeguards and protective measures that already achieve what this bill seeks to do.”

Adam Ernest, co-founder of the nonpartisan organization Follow My Vote, which advocates for the adoption of decentralized technologies like blockchain in election systems, said the bill’s approach was too focused on a specific set of procedures, and encouraged lawmakers seeking to “modernize our elections” to instead authorize vendors to develop the best systems and technologies according to certain standards.

“The bill reads like a patent application,” Ernest said. “Instead of focusing on processes and protocols, let’s shift to standards — voting system certification standards that blockchain voting systems would need to meet when introduced into elections systems here in the United States, and specifically in Colorado.”

DeGraaf said he had developed his proposal with Spencer Roberts, a Colorado Springs software engineer, who testified in support of the bill and what he called the “Election Integrity Protocol.” A Twitter account from Colorado Springs bearing Roberts’ likeness has repeatedly spread debunked election conspiracy theories relating to the 2020 and 2022 elections, and features calls to “reinstate President Trump” and to “replace the machines and vote again.”

Conspiracy theories alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 election have been repeatedly debunked by expertscourts and former President Donald Trump’s own campaign and administration officials. Multiple recounts sought by Colorado election deniers in recent years have produced virtually no change in results, and the secretary of state’s office conducts risk-limiting audits following each election that verify results through random ballot sampling.

Other witnesses who testified in support of the bill on Monday also echoed election conspiracy theories. Sabrina Ballister, a Colorado Springs resident, accused the media of “vicious gaslighting” in its coverage of election issues, and said Colorado’s government had been infiltrated by “the cartels.”

HB-1170 was postponed indefinitely by the House State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs committee on an 8-3 vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.

“The GOP continues to push the Big Lie in an effort to undermine Colorado’s elections,” state Rep. Steven Woodrow, a Democrat from Denver and the committee’s chair, said in a statement. “Election denialism has no place in Colorado — the voters have made clear that they have little tolerance for conspiracies and disinformation.”

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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