Briefline

Rep. Jason Crow, local leaders push for voting rights bill, civics education as Jan. 6 anniversary nears

By: - January 4, 2022 5:37 pm

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of The American Legion on June 16, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

One year after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, elected officials and voting rights leaders say, to preserve American democracy, they want a renewed commitment to fighting disinformation and educating the public about the electoral process.

“One of the lessons from the last couple years is that our democracy is only as good as the people who are willing to stand and fight for it. No institution, no tradition, no piece of paper is going to protect us. At the end of the day, it’s the people willing to do the work,” Rep. Jason Crow said during a Jan. 4 virtual roundtable hosted by his office to mark the anniversary.

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“We came close to losing our democracy in 2021 with the attempted insurrection on the Capitol. Let’s make 2022 the year that we save it,” he said.

Crow, a Democrat who represents Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, was three days into his second term when violent Trump loyalists broke into the building in order to disrupt the certification process for the 2020 election. A photograph of the former Army ranger comforting Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa, during the chaos is one of the lingering images from the day.

We came close to losing our democracy in 2021 with the attempted insurrection on the Capitol. Let’s make 2022 the year that we save it.

– Rep. Jason Crow

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser called Jan. 6 one of the “darkest days in American history,” and said it could happen again without thoughtful strategy.

“The January 6 challenge is a new challenge,” he said. “Can we count on the lawful administration of elections, the responsible counting of ballots and the responsible behavior of political actors?”

He said the threats to election administration are at a record high in the country, and Colorado must protect and promote its electoral model.

But even though Colorado is generally considered to be a leader in voting rights and strong elections, the dangerous philosophy that caused the Jan. 6 insurrection has still seeped into the state.

Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Joan Lopez shared that her office has received threats of violence via email and that some long-time staff have quit over the intimidation. In one incident from 2020, two people came into the Littleton office with firearms and focused a camera on the ballot box in order to record people dropping off their ballots.

“This can keep going on. This can keep happening,” she warned. “We need to make sure that our election workers are safe.”

She said part of the solution can come through transparency about the electoral process and how ballots are counted.

Others suggested more voter education, media literacy efforts and strategies to quell rampant disinformation. Civic education is a mission for organizations like the Aurora NAACP, League of Women Voters and Colorado Common Cause, who all had representatives on the call.

“When we think about Jan. 6, we need to remember that it was the culmination of a multi-year campaign put on by the former president to undermine public confidence in our election infrastructure,” said Cameron Hill, the associate director for Colorado Common Cause.

He said disinformation is being used by far-right politicians to sow distrust in election workers, voting access and the electoral process.

“They’ve been using disinformation to do multiple things … to justify the passage of bills across the country that will suppress the vote of certain people, black and brown voters, urban voters, young voters,” he said. “It’s also being used to pass laws that will change the rules for how our elections are administered and make it easier to subvert those free and fair elections.”

Crow emphasized his desire for Congress to pass voting rights legislation, including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, two bills currently stalled in the Senate. Both have passed the House.

“Colorado is doing well. Local municipalities are doing well. But this is really, as the saying goes, the long pole in the tent. Unless we pass a basic voting rights protection, almost nothing matters going forward.”

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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