Election judges, usually temporary workers, organize ballots to go through the sorting machine at the Jefferson County elections building on Oct. 21, 2020. (Eli Imadali for Colorado Newsline)
Larimer County election officials last week sent to election judges an alert that highlighted election disinformation spread in a phone call from someone posing as a county employee and using a number that spoofed the county clerk’s office.
The alert, which Newsline obtained through a public information request, said that an unknown person called a potential Larimer County election judge, and, identifying herself as a Larimer County employee, told the potential judge that the county requires all election judges “to be vaccinated.”
“The information provided on the call is disinformation,” the alert, sent by the county’s elections operations manager, said. “The information is not accurate, and the call was not made by our office.”
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Larimer election judges do not need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or show proof of vaccination.
The call came from a Long Beach, California, area code. When a Newsline reporter called the number it was not operational. The ID that appeared on the phone of the targeted election judge was “Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.”
The call recipient, who worked for the Republican Party, contacted Larimer County Clerk Angela Myers, also a Republican, and said they got a call from Myers’ office informing them they have to be vaccinated.
“I’m like, ‘Not in my office,'” Myers said in an interview. “I said, ‘Give me the number, I’ll call and check it out, because that’s not us.’ And I did call and check it out, and the number was no good.”
I will say we don't take anything lightly anymore.
– Matt Crane, of the Colorado County Clerks Association
Election disinformation and related threats have been a top concern for election officials at least since former President Donald Trump set in motion the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a line of disinformation that persists among a majority of Republicans.
But the Larimer incident seemed unusual.
“It’s very strange,” Myers said.
The call could cause confusion, and Myers wanted to alert other potential targets to the possibility of spoofed calls, she said.
“There’s chaos going on, you know, not just about elections, but people spoof things all the time, so it’s just an element that we all deal with in our lives now,” she said. Myers added, “It is the first thing that I’ve had happen in a very long time in Larimer County. I haven’t had anything like this in any election to my recollection.”
Myers wasn’t sure how many election judges received the alert, but it could be as many as 630, the number of judges the county expects to hire for the November election. She also informed the Larimer County Sheriff and state authorities about the incident.
Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said the Larimer case seems to be isolated, and no other Colorado election officials have reported similar spoofed calls.
“But it is something that we’re definitely monitoring,” Crane said. “It is something now we’re making other clerks aware of.”
He said election officials learned from elections in 2016 and 2020 about “the importance of information sharing and getting stuff to our partners as quickly as possible so it can be investigated and disseminated to other jurisdictions.”
“I will say we don’t take anything lightly anymore,” Crane added. “It’s just a concern again that people with bad intent are going to do nefarious things, and so we’re trying to make sure we’re ready for it.”
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