UPDATE: The event occurred Saturday and was legal because it was related to an election, even if it could have been avoided.
El Paso County, Colorado, Republicans are apparently moving ahead with a “drive-thru” convention Saturday, involving some 1,500 GOP voters, many elderly.
The delegates will drive to a Colorado Springs parking lot, where volunteers will verify their names in a computer and hand them a paper ballot.
Then the Republicans will fill out their paper ballots, ratifying already-elected delegates for the state convention, a larger gathering to be held later. They will then return the ballots to the same volunteers in the parking lot.
While this drive-through process avoids the usual congregation of 1,500 people in a room, it’s still dangerous and could be avoided, say other El Paso Republicans.
They worry that Republican delegates, who will come from all over the Colorado Springs area, will carpool to the site together, possibly infecting one another with COVID-19. The carpooling issue is particularly likely given the advanced age of many delegates, say critics.
Passing around hundreds of potentially virus-carrying ballots also makes no sense, say critics, who argue that entire process could be easily avoided with a virtual election, as was already conducted in Colorado Springs Senate District 10 and House District 16–and is currently underway in House District 15, 19, and Commissioner District 2, using email addresses to credential voters.
They also argue that the drive-through election is pointless because it involves nothing that’s contested; it’s a process to ratify delegates for the state assembly, where voting will take place.
El Paso Republicans believe their “Drive-Thru” assembly is allowed under a law signed March 20, giving them flexibility in conducting such political conventions. The law allows for conducting assemblies remotely but does not require this, saying, “a party may amend its bylaws as necessary in 2020 to provide for remote access to and participation in party assemblies and conventions.”
The El Paso Republican Party, which is a private group, apparently does not believe Polis’ subsequent stay-at-home order makes this event illegal, but there’s no obvious language in the order that provides for an exemption for it.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder’s office did not immediately return a call seeking to know if he’d stop the drive-through event in light of Polis’ order. The El Paso County sheriff’s website states, “Our goal is to minimize public exposure to the virus, while carrying out our mission to protect public safety in El Paso County.”
This week, El Paso Republicans distributed a document, titled “YOU are the life of the Party,” announcing that the event might be canceled due to the stay-at-home order.
But El Paso County Republican leader, Vicki Tonkins, wrote that she hoped it would be held.
“As Republicans, we do not do well when our God given rights are infringed upon,” wrote Tonkins.
“My hope is that we will be able to continue with our plans,” wrote Tonkins. “This is essential to ‘Keep America Great.'”
With respect to Gov. Jared Polis’ (D-CO) stay-at-home order, Tonkins told fellow Republicans she will decide whether to abide it, and she said she will not tell anyone what they should do.
Tonkins did not return an email seeking to know if the event was canceled, if she was concerned about safety, what safety measures were being taken, and why/if she thought it was a legal gathering.
CORRECTION: This post originally stated that the “Drive-Thru” convention was likely in violation of the stay-at-home ban. This was never the case, as it relates to an election, which is Polis listed in a news conference as an essential activity and therefore allowed.