Appearing with two other conservative pundits on an online panel, Republican Matt Crane, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, defended Colorado’s election system and celebrated the state’s role as a leader in adopting safe and convenient voting systems and as an adviser to other states in adopting reforms that broaden ballot access for voters.
Participants on the panel, broadcast on the Jimmy at the Crossroads podcast May 19, discussed issues of election integrity, including the controversial and restrictive election laws currently being adopted in battleground states where false conspiracy claims of fraud in the 2020 election stubbornly persist, seven months later.
Crane denounced the misinformation and propaganda driving some red states to legislate stricter voting laws.
“I think we’d be remiss if we also didn’t say a part of election integrity has to be people speaking truthfully about elections and what happens,” said Crane during the panel discussion, “The amount of mis- and dis-information that we’ve had from this election cycle has had a really damaging effect. I would say it has been [as] damaging as any process issues that we’ve seen in the States. … There’s been so much mis- and dis-info about what happened in 2020. And, you know, when you when you say that most people think it comes from the right, and to be sure, there is plenty of mis- and dis-info that has come from the right. But when you look at the responses [from corporate entities], … what’s happening in Georgia and in other states, there’s been dis-info about that and mis-info coming from the left to trying to scare people, trying to scare their base into coming out and supporting whatever policy points they want to push forward.”
Some Georgia-based companies such as Coca-Cola, Delta, and Major League Baseball’s have issued public statements and pulled back on political donations and regional investment, reportedly in response to pleas from Black business executives and voting rights activists asking them to oppose new laws that would restrict the rights of Black voters.
House Resolution 1 (H.R. 1), also known as For the People Act, was another topic of the panel discussion. Congressional Democrats generally support the proposed federal law as a baseline of voter protections and best practices for all state election systems, while also reforming campaign finance rules and ensuring against gerrymandering.
Democratic support for H.R. 1 has galvanized since the election results were disputed without valid cause or evidence, and as red states pass measures which restrict voter access.
Republicans, including Crane, former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, and Garrett Bess of Heritage Action America, along with host Jimmy Sengenberger spoke out against H.R. 1, contending that it strips state sovereignty in an expansion of federal authority.
But Crane asserted that a check is needed for states legislating overly restrictive election measures.
“We should trust people in their own states to come up with laws that work for them. Now, with that said, I think there’s some responsibility that some states should have not to go too far to where you’re unnecessarily restricting access,” Crane opined. “And so that’s something that we should keep an eye on. But by and large, states should be able to determine how that how they conduct their own elections. And H.R. 1, there’s a lot of problematic aspects to H.R. 1 that I just wish they’d take a time out and let the states have these conversations.”
Panel members agreed in their support for election reform laws that tighten the chain of custody for ballots, to reduce the potential and perception of tampering. They did not discuss the extremely loose chain of custody for 2020 ballots in Maricopa County in Arizona which have been surrendered by the GOP-controlled state senate to a private and discredited group conducting the audit.
Regarding ballot drop boxes, another area of integrity concern for Republican, Crane doesn’t believe they threaten a tight chain of custody for ballots:
“We feel like ballot drop boxes are a more secure and accessible way to make sure that the county gets your ballot,” said Crane. “And then when you think about ballot tracks and other tools that we’ve implemented in Colorado, our friends in Denver started that. But now everybody across the state does it. It allows a lot of transparency around that process so a person can follow their ballot throughout its life cycle.”
Republicans also want to increase verification systems for voter registration and voting. Crane says Colorado’s signature verification system is reliable.
“In Colorado, we have we have pretty good signature verification processes here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. One of the things we’re going to start pushing for shortly is a consistent and more robust ways that we can audit the work around signature verification,” said Crane.
Also in regard to verification systems, all three on the panel support photo I.D. requirements. Crane said data should drive decisions on reform laws, and he wrongly cited polling in support of voter I.D. laws as relevant “data.”
“So, Colorado right now is not a strict photo ID state, so you do have to show some kind of ID, but it can be a utility bill,” said Crane. “… When I was a clerk and recorder, I always supported photo ID. I think poll after poll shows a majority of Americans believe in photo ID, including a majority of people of color. So to me, this isn’t something that really should be should be debated as hotly as it is. … What is the data say? What what does the polling say, like around photo ID?
Despite Colorado’s shift toward blue on the political spectrum which corresponded with the new election laws from 2013, the state system has proven popular and trusted with voters.
Crane was originally appointed to serve as clerk and recorder for Arapahoe County in 2012, and was re-elected to the position in 2014 and 2016. He However, the anti-Trump blue wave election in 2018 saw Crane lose his seat to a rival Democrat.
Crane’s narrow loss in that election was considered an upset, rivaled only by the electoral loss of another state-wide election official, Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
There were no widespread challenges of fraud in the 2018 Colorado elections, despite these two notable losses. In fact, Crane and Williams enjoyed bipartisan appreciation and support, in contrast to Williams’ partisan predecessor, Republican Scott Gessler, who unsuccessfully challenged Colorado’s election reform laws on a few different fronts.
In his recent campaign for GOP chair of Colorado, Gessler embraced unsubstantiated charges of election fraud, and claimed to have “engineered negative press” to undermine the current secretary of state, Jena Griswold.
Crane and Williams were both responsible for successfully implementing and managing Colorado’s new election reform laws in 2013, which included all-mail ballots, same day voter registration, expanded drop off boxes for ballot collection, risk-limiting audits, and signature verification protocols.
These aspects of the Colorado system proved particularly advantageous in 2020 when elections were held in the midst the COVID pandemic, when traditional voting systems were challenged to meet social distancing and public health protocols.
Crane explained how the demand for rapid innovation, design, and implementation of state systems during the pandemic might have contributed to problems, real or perceived among voters in those states
“We had worked over a series of years to be able to grow our processes and mature our processes.,” said Crane. “… It took us 15 years, and in the 2020 election cycle, some states made that move in 180 days. And and so that’s really, obviously, a very condensed timeline to be able to do that. And so we had calls with states all across the country that we’re looking to do that and trying to help the best we can. But there’s no way that a state can do something in 180 days and do it as well as Colorado does it when we’ve had 15 years to make that move.”
Click here to watch the entire panel discussion.