Candidates for El Paso County Clerk and Recorder discussed Dominion Voting Systems, ballot boxes, the Colorado Election Security Act, the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), and other hot topics during a Wednesday forum at the Church For All Nations in Colorado Springs.
The prevalence of unfounded election conspiracy claims has raised the profile across the country of races for the position of county clerk, which is the top county official overseeing elections.
In El Paso County, candidates for clerk and recorder include Steve Schleiker, the current Republican El Paso County Assessor, Peter Lupia, the favorite among “grassroots” Republicans and members of conservative activist group FEC United, and Lisa Wilkes, the Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for clerk and recorder in 2018 and served on Colorado’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission.
The first question of the evening focused on each candidate’s position on Dominion Voting Systems and getting rid of ballot boxes. Douglas County podcaster and founder of FEC United, Joe Oltmann, alongside figures like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, helped popularize the baseless theory that Dominion voting machines were responsible for changing the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. Calling Oltmann’s claims “outlandish” and “probably false,” a Denver District Court judge recently denied Oltmann’s motion to dismiss a defamation suit brought against him by former Dominion executive Eric Coomer. The recent film 2,000 Mules suggests that instead of the machines, the election was actually stolen by a network of Antifa members working for George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg-backed nonprofits to stuff ballot boxes with “trafficked ballots.” Neither scenario has affected elections in Colorado or El Paso County.
“With relationship to getting rid of Dominion, the [El Paso] County Commissioners are the folks that actually sign the contracts for Dominion, so I’m working with the county commissioners,” said Lupia. “We have the ability to make decisions as to how we conduct our elections. The state statute gives us that direction. We have to follow certain things, but we have the ability to make the decision to get rid of Dominion. We have the decision to go to hand-counting if we choose. There are five counties in Colorado right now that are hand counting their ballots, so we would not be the only ones doing that. With regard to the ballot boxes, the way to get rid of those is we unscrew them and remove them.”
Wilkes did not suggest removing the Dominion machines but did suggest having “white hat hackers” inspect them. “I would definitely do analysis on them, and what I would really like to do is get white hat security, somebody who is a hacker to take that down and see if there are any flaws or problems with it,” she said. “I just want the system to be secure.”
Wilkes also noted that hand-counting ballots would be impractical. “We are the largest county in Colorado with over 400,000 voters, so for us to be hand-counting would be incredibly expensive to people,” she said.
Schleiker did not take a firm stance on the Dominion machines. “Your next clerk and recorder should be the voice of the people in El Paso County,” he said. “If the voice is to get rid of the Dominion machines, then get rid of the Dominion machines. If the voice says to get rid of the ballot drop boxes, you get rid of the drop boxes.”
Schleiker did oppose hand-counting, however. “Today, we are the largest, most populous county in the state of Colorado,” he said. “We’ve got over 745,000 residents here. The last time El Paso County did a hand count was in the early 70s when our population was less than a quarter-million people and we had less than 100 precincts.”
Current El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman told the Colorado Springs Independent that hand-counting ballots would cost taxpayers “$400,000 to $600,000 or more for an election.”
Candidates were also asked about the recently passed Colorado Election Security Act, introduced after the ongoing legal storm involving Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, a current Colorado Secretary of State candidate, who is facing a laundry list of felony charges for allegedly breaching security protocols for the voting machines in her office.
“That is a horrible bill,” said Schleiker, who said he would introduce legislation to allow forensic audits and require clerks to hold on to ballots indefinitely. “Folks, I will tell you right now, we’re looking at one-party rule in the state of Colorado, one-party rule of the federal government. There was no doubt in my mind it was going to come down to a party-line vote regarding that horrible bill.”
Lupia noted that he was the only candidate to testify against the bill. “The way we get around 153 is we have a county commission whose chair stated in public that they have spoken out in opposition to Senate Bill 153, so I would expect to have their support in standing against it as well, so we move forward,” he said. “That’s how we take back control, we do what we are statutorily able to do, which make determinations on our elections”
Wilkes echoed Schleiker’s plan to maintain ballots and voting records. “We definitely need to be holding onto all of our ballots and all of our information and keeping data as long as possible, so if there is any questions you can go back and look at information,” she said. “I think that whenever the county disagrees with something that is there, we can go and speak on behalf of the county to say we don’t agree with this initiative or ballot item.”
Wilkes did disagree with the Republican candidates when it came to Colorado’s automatic voter registration law, which allows Colorado residents to register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s license. “I think it is important that we have more access for people, so when people go to get their license and they’re young and they’re 17 or whatever that they can get registered,” she said.
Both Schleiker and Lupia opposed automatic voter registration, which they blamed for changing voters’ party affiliation. “I found something out that bothered me,” said Schleiker. “Did you know you can change your party affiliation when you renew your driver’s license? Do you know how many Republicans I ran into that are no longer Republicans but are considered unaffiliated? That needs to stop. … If there’s anything regarding election in regards to motor vehicle, driver’s license renewal, that needs to be removed.”
Lupia said he would support repealing the law. “I personally am not a fan of motor voter,” he said. “I don’t believe everyone who goes in for a driver’s license should automatically be registered to vote.”
Wilkes also dissented with the Republicans over Colorado’s participation in ERIC, a nonprofit that works to improve the accuracy of voter rolls.
“One of the things that ERIC does as well is cross states, people who live in multiple places and multiple locations,” she said. “They can’t vote in multiple locations because the record information is there as well, so it’s also a stop for voter fraud. We can’t just throw out the bathwater and the baby and everything else as well.”
Lupia took the opportunity to mention political boogeyman George Soros, the Hungarian billionaire that conspiracy theorists assert — invoking antisemitic tropes — is using his money and influence to control world politics. “That system is a Soros-backed, designed, funded system, and the goal of ERIC is to take voter rolls and clean them up,” he said. “Somehow, in the state of Colorado, we have more voters in the system than we do registered voters.”
Schleiker noted that ERIC is a program managed by the Secretary of State, but also suggested using assessor’s data to clean up voter rolls.
Lupia and Schleiker will compete for the Republican nomination in the June 28 primary. Wilkes is running for the Democratic nomination unopposed.