Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, left, and Republican Pam Anderson are running for Colorado secretary of state. (Courtesy of the campaigns)
In their final debate ahead of next month’s midterm elections, the candidates running for Colorado secretary of state on Monday reacted to reports of far-right conspiracist groups monitoring ballot drop boxes in Colorado and other states.
Footage of men dressed in military-style tactical gear watching over a drop box in Arizona circulated widely over the weekend, prompting law enforcement to increase security. In a message last week, FEC United, a Colorado-based organization with an affiliated militia group, also encouraged its members to organize “ballot box parties” to “deter crime.”
Incumbent Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, touted her work helping to pass laws that prohibit the intimidation of election workers and the open carrying of firearms near drop boxes and polling places.
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“It’s very concerning to see groups with a tied militia say they’re going to monitor (drop boxes),” Griswold said during the debate, hosted by 9News. “To be very clear, voter intimidation is illegal under state and federal law.”
Former Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson, Griswold’s Republican challenger, has spoken out against members of her own party who have spread election conspiracy theories, including FEC United founder Joe Oltmann.
“I will continue to lead and stand up and push back against against violence and rhetoric around our elections,” Anderson said. “I recently pushed back against Joe Oltmann and that type of reprehensible rhetoric.”
Anderson secured the GOP nomination for secretary of state after defeating Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, an election denier under indictment for her alleged role in a security breach, in the June primary.
But Griswold again faulted her opponent for appearing alongside Republicans who have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election at GOP campaign events in Colorado.
“The big lie is why Tina Peters breached her election infrastructure,” Griswold said. “The big lie is why the Chaffee County clerk works behind bulletproof glass. The big lie is why a man was just sentenced to 18 months in prison for threatening my life.”
“These lies are destabilizing our democracy,” she added. “Coloradans can always expect from me never to campaign with election deniers.”
Anderson defended her appearances alongside election deniers like GOP lieutenant governor nominee Danny Moore, arguing that engaging with voters at such events is part of her efforts to combat election misinformation.
“I am a registered Republican, and the center point of my campaign is to go to voters, where invited, to push back on false, misleading information and conspiracy,” Anderson said.
“I haven’t seen my opponent doing that,” she added. “Thirty-second spots saying, ‘Trust me, I’m your government,’ isn’t going to get us through this.”
Other issues discussed during Monday’s half-hour debate included automatic voter registration, dark money and the secretary of state’s oversight of business registrations.
Colorado voters began receiving their mail ballots last week, and in-person early voting locations opened across the state on Monday. Election Day is Nov. 8.
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