On Monday, members of the Electoral College assembled at the state Capitol to cast Colorado’s nine electoral votes for Joe Biden, marking the 37th time this peculiar ceremony has taken place in our state. Our nine votes contributed to the 306 Electoral College votes Biden earned in his decisive victory over Donald Trump.
The next day, a coalition of kooks, conspiracy theorists, and sore losers came to that same building, seemingly through a portal from another dimension, claiming repeatedly and without evidence that there is doubt about the outcome of the 2020 election in Colorado.
This official-sounding hearing was made possible because, despite not having any power at all to second-guess Colorado’s 2020 election, one of the most extreme right-wing members of the Colorado House of Representatives, Rep. Lori Saine whose term in office ends next month, happens to be the lame-duck chair of the Legislative Audit Committee.
Rep. Saine, who was once arrested for trying to bring a loaded gun onto an airplane at Denver International Airport, held this position because of a longstanding rule that entrusted both parties with the responsibility of ensuring the government was accountable, assuming this committee would always be convened in good faith. But this wasn’t about good faith.
Despite absolutely no evidence of fraud that could have undone President-elect Biden’s massive 13.5% margin over Donald Trump in Colorado or John Hickenlooper’s 9.3% margin over outgoing U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, Rep. Saine convened a hearing at taxpayer expense to allege voter fraud in Colorado without providing any evidence. This comes despite the fact that Congressman Ken Buck, who also serves as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, had already brought together Republican county clerks from across the state to assure the party faithful that Colorado’s elections were fair and accurate — he has had limited success so far.
Jenna Ellis, an attorney for the Trump Campaign with ties to Colorado Christian University, demanded the Legislative Audit Committee initiate an audit of the 2020 election. What Ellis didn’t seem to know is, Colorado already conducts a thorough bipartisan audit after every election to ensure that there were no irregularities. This year’s audit took place on November 16th and was streamed live online for the public to see for themselves.
The bipartisan members of the risk-limiting audit in November cast 20 ten-sided dice to randomly select paper ballots that they then compared to the electronic vote record of every county in the state to ensure the paper ballots matched the electronic records. The 2020 audit produced a result of 96% confidence, which means that on average 96 out of 100 times an audit was conducted, it would catch any incorrect outcome. For those of you unfamiliar with either Dungeons and Dragons or statistical probability, this means that you can be confident that the winners won, the losers lost, and there was no monkey business that could have changed the outcome of any election in Colorado.
Monday’s sham legislative hearing, however, was not an innocent inquest designed to clear up electoral confusion. The only people who are confused about the outcome of this election are some small fraction of the less than 42% of Coloradans who cast their vote for Donald Trump.
But the false and debunked conspiracy theories surrounding imaginary vote-switching algorithms and baseless accusations of systemic fraud given credence in this hearing have led to death threats against employees of Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, a firm first hired to conduct Colorado’s elections by a bipartisan panel headed up by former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Colorado county clerks and their staff have received violent messages, like an email sent to lawmakers and state and county elections staff that read, “Voting Machine Corruption By Dominion. Here In Colorado Too! They’re closing in! ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ KNOW! YOU MIGHT WANT TO DO SOMETHING OR TAKE COVER!”
Attached to the email was an image of four bodies hanged in the gallows and a PDF titled “Declaration of Dr. Navid Keshavarz-NIA,” which, among other falsehoods and debunked nonsense, alleges problems with votes in Edison County, Michigan — which, in fact, does not exist.
In the end, this purportedly high-drama hearing turned out to be a rather boring waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Trump’s conspiracy theorists prevailed upon a temporarily empowered lame-duck fringe politician to use the State Capitol as a backdrop for the same nonsensical and dangerous falsehoods about the election, trying and failing to lend the credibility of the state of Colorado itself to this farce.
The results of the 2020 election, in Colorado or elsewhere, are not in doubt. However, it will be difficult for us as Americans to debate the meaning of the election, and our vision for the country, if we can’t even accept the basic realities of math.
Ian Silverii is the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest progressive advocacy group. This op-ed was originally published in The Denver Post on Dec. 16, 2020.