A recount of votes in the GOP primary for Colorado secretary of state shows what election officials knew to be true from the first round of counting: Tina Peters, an election denier, did not come close to winning her primary election.
The results reiterated what county clerks initially reported: Peters lost the election by more than 88,000 votes. Mike Beasley, lobbyist for the Colorado County Clerks Association, said all 64 counties reported they had completed their recounts and while Peters gained four votes, Pam Anderson gained seven. The changes in votes are based on ballots that needed judges to determine which way a person voted.
Peters, the Mesa County clerk and recorder who sought the GOP nomination for secretary of state, ran a campaign focused on casting doubt about the state and country’s election systems and claimed without evidence that the 2020 presidential election and following elections were “stolen,” including her own. Peters had the backing of high-profile election conspiracy theorists, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who supported her financially, as well as Steve Bannon, former President Donald Trump’s chief strategist who was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress.
The clerk herself has been indicted by a Colorado grand jury over allegations of election equipment tampering and she faces multiple criminal and civil investigations.
Still, Peters was able to raise the more than a quarter of a million dollars required to pay for a recount after the election, getting more money from supporters after she lost than she did during the regular campaign. She had to pay for it herself because she didn’t get enough votes to trigger an automatic recount of the results, barely getting enough to place second in the race over opponent Mike O’Donnell.
Anderson, a former Jefferson County clerk and recorder, won the Colorado GOP nomination for secretary of state.
“People were hoodwinked — I don’t care if they live in Colorado or not, they were hoodwinked,” Beasley said of Peters’ donors. “This is either the gold standard of stupidity on behalf of these candidates or it is a scam to take people’s money. I’m not sure which.”
Colorado County Clerks Association Executive Director Matt Crane said he views Peters’ fundraising for a recount over claims of a stolen election the same way he views the scam emails people used to receive about Nigerian princes who were telling people they had inherited a million dollars.
“I don’t know which is worse,” Crane said, adding that “she knows damn well the systems are accurate.”
Prior to the recount and while it was being conducted, Peters spread lies about the states’ Dominion Voting Systems machines — a frequent target of election deniers — and kept demanding the votes be counted by hand, despite elections rules saying recounts had to be conducted in the same manner as the original election. She also filed a lawsuit with other candidates in Denver court, claiming that the recount was being conducted unfairly, particularly in El Paso County, all allegations Crane strongly disputes.
Crane, a Republican and former clerk himself, said it was “staggering” how much Peters doesn’t understand about the elections process — a process she was in charge of overseeing as a county clerk.
“Unfortunately, there’s a group of people who have really, really tied themselves to the idea that the 2020 election was stolen, and there’s no amount of fact or data that you can show them to be able to change their mind. They really think Tina Peters is a hero and I’m here to tell you she’s not a hero. She has disgraced herself and her office. She violated her oath and probably the law,” he said.
If Peters were a Democrat who was making these claims, Crane said the people who support her now would have laughed her out of the room, but because her supporters believe they’re defending Trump, “they just suspend all common sense.”
On Wednesday night, Peters filed another lawsuit against Secretary of State Jena Griswold and 62 Colorado county clerks, claiming the recounts were being conducted unfairly using Dominion voting equipment. She asked that the court require Griswold to “certify” the voting systems machines, claiming security vulnerabilities, and conduct a recount.
Alternatively, the lawsuit stated, the court could have Griswold complete a hand recount of Peters’ race with the clerks as observers. Peters also said in the lawsuit that the costs of the recount should be paid from the state general fund and the cost of the prior recount be paid by the counties, with the money returned to Peters that she already paid. And she asked that the court order a “forensic examination” of the voting system machines to be conducted by a “cyber expert” Peters chooses.
The lawsuit claimed that there’s evidence to suggest “vote tallies are being artificially controlled.”
But Beasley said he could stand in front of everyone at the courthouse and count every vote by hand and candidates like Peters still wouldn’t believe the results.
“We all hope as election professionals that the public takes from this that the system works,” he said.
He added that a lawful request was made for a recount and the counties met the challenge and conducted the recount on time, affirming the results.
“Enough is enough,” Beasley said. “These aren’t sore losers. These are people who are trying to cheapen and lessen the public support for our election systems and I don’t think that’s going to work here.”
But even if the majority of Coloradans don’t believe Peters, the damage she has caused is clear for Crane and other county clerks. Crane was in Washington, D.C., earlier this week talking to Congress about threats to election officials, which have increased after Peters’ claims. He said clerks are also receiving numerous Colorado Open Records Requests at the urging of Cause for America and U.S. Elections Integrity Project — backed by election deniers — asking for information, half of which doesn’t exist and much of which they don’t even understand.
“These people who claim that they’re for election integrity, they’re actually making it much harder for those of us who are serious about election integrity to do this work,” Crane said, adding that they not only slow the process down but they make it harder to pursue real changes and reforms.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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