For nearly two hours last night, Fremont County Clerk & Recorder Justin Grantham patiently explained the election process to a packed house of around 90 constituents.
The Election Integrity Forum was open to the public, and while it was hosted by the Fremont Republicans at their Cañon City office, Grantham told the Colorado Times Recorder that he recognized some Democrats and Unaffiliated voters in the crowd.
He began by walking the audience through the election process, from printing and mailing to collection and tabulation, highlighting security measures taken at every step. Grantham then answered dozens of questions, many of which were based on debunked claims involving some combination of Dominion Voting Systems, foreign interference, forged ballots, and hackers inserting malware into election machines, all for the purposes of rigging the election against Trump.
Election fraud conspiracy group U.S. Election Integrity Plan (USEIP), based in Colorado, has promoted all of these conspiracies, including accusing county clerks, many of whom are Republicans, of being either too incompetent to prevent the interference or active participants in the purported criminal activity.
The event was polite, albeit repetitive, until the very end.
After the last question submitted by notecard had been answered, Shawn Smith, a USEIP leader, called out Grantham directly, claiming that he’d just heard “at least 40 or 50 statements [he] knew to be inaccurate.”
Smith then launched into a rapid-fire version of his election fraud speech, one he’s delivered numerous times over the past nine months at venues including the Legislative Audit Committee’s all-day election integrity hearing on Dec. 10 and various meetings of local Republican clubs and conservative activists. He delivered the same unsubstantiated claims involving various election machine vendors, hitting the highlights of potentially forged ballots and foreign hackers flipping votes, but sprinkled with more technical jargon and acronyms.
His final allegation: The Colorado County Clerks Association misled Grantham and other clerks. This is based on another USEIP conspiracy that the Clerks Association Director and former Arapahoe Clerk Matt Crane, also a Republican, his wife, and even former GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams were all involved in rigging Colorado’s election results. This claim is especially puzzling considering that both Crane and Williams lost their own races –in elections they themselves administered– in 2018.
Grantham let him finish before responding by referencing a previous conversation they’d had. The exchange reflected both the passion and the frustration this issue generates.
Shawn Smith: I’m afraid there’s a lot of information that you have been misled with. In particular through the Colorado County Clerks Association and who they’re connected to. I can explain exactly why if you’re interested. So my question for you is, do you want to have a real discussion about what’s happened?
Clerk Grantham: So last time I was around you, Mr. Smith, you threatened somebody in front of me.
Shawn Smith: That’s a lie!
Clerk Grantham: Is it? It was recorded. Go read your statement. Do you want to take this outside? You’re calling me a liar.
Shawn Smith: I didn’t say anything-
Clerk Grantham: I was there.
Shawn Smith: I said ‘you called me a liar and that’s going to be a problem and we’re going to address it, Mr. Crane.’ [Smith was presumably referring to a previous exchange between himself and Crane, at which Grantham was present]. That’s what I said. So the assertion that I threatened anyone is a bald-faced lie and if somebody repeats it again, I will sue them for slander. And that includes you!
Grantham clarified a couple of facts about Fremont County election systems that made Smith’s claims irrelevant. His statements were clearly not answered to Smith’s satisfaction, but the two ended their conversation.
Reached by phone, Grantham acknowledged frustration at his exchange with Smith but overall was positive about the event.
“It’s great to see so many people interested in the elections and willing to hear their county clerk’s perspective, said Grantham. “If people learned one more thing about the election. As long as I was able to get one person to know something new about the election, I call it a win. I’m never going to criticize people for asking questions. That’s how they keep election officials on our toes, that’s what keeps us honest.”
The entire meeting is available to watch on the Fremont County GOP Facebook page.
Tuesday night’s meeting isn’t the first time Grantham has had issues with election fraud conspiracists. A month ago he penned a blunt letter to his own state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Penrose), who’s fully embraced the Big Lie conspiracy.
In another recent example of its connection to the Colorado GOP, USEIP encouraged its members to testify at the Colorado Redistricting Commission’s upcoming public hearings. The group, which claims to be nonpartisan, used the text of a Colorado Republican Party email and used a state GOP link that directed people to the Commission’s sign-up form.
The language was copied from an email sent by Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown on Sept. 5. Burton Brown has been open about her partnership with the QAnon-linked conspiracy group, including appointing USEIP member Emily Brake to head the party’s Election Integrity Action Committee.
Speaking to a Jefferson County GOP club on July 20, founder Ashe Epp stated that USEIP’s mission is “to expose the fraud, to share the truth, and to retake Colorado.” Smith and Brake both joined Epp in speaking at that meeting.
“In our counties is where we’re going to lead these coalitions with the local GOP, the local Tea Party if they’re still active, the local FEC [United] activists- all sorts of groups that are passionate about election integrity,” said Epp. “We’re running voter verification at the local level. This is actually going door-to-door and checking the accuracy of the results of the election. We’re doing it at the precinct level all across the state.”
Just five days earlier, an unsigned blog post on the USEIP website attacked Grantham, a Republican elected official representing a very conservative county, calling him a “stonewalling clown…who has zero idea about the CO Constitution.” The group was angry that he took the time to dispute various conspiracy claims and declined demands (made to his official Facebook account) to halt updates to county election machines.
UPDATE: Via email, Ms. Brake denies ever being a member of USEIP.
“I am not a member of USEIP. I have never been a member of USEIP, wrote Brake. I did not approve, authorize, write, nor create the alleged content for the alleged USEIP websites, flyers, platforms, and/or communications that is posted on the Colorado Times Recorder website.”