Despite ongoing unfounded fears of election fraud among Republican voters, at least some prominent Colorado conservatives are working to debunk the conspiracy theories and disinformation being peddled by the far-right wing of their own party.
On June 10, conservative radio host George Brauchler of 710 KNUS brought Matt Crane, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association and a former Republican Clerk & Recorder for Arapahoe County, onto his “Stump the Clerk” show, a three-hour-long event co-hosted by Billy Thorpe. The show was an opportunity for listeners concerned about election integrity to ask their most burning questions — and for a former election official to debunk some of the most pervasive myths surrounding election fraud.
The following is an excerpt from the radio show. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Radio Caller #1 (Bob): I listened to the D.A.’s report [on Tina Peters’ election integrity reports, which have been repeatedly debunked.], and I still do not understand. Why not bring in a couple of D.H.S.-certified cyber experts and go through this, and even get O’Donnell on, and have this thoroughly vetted? I personally thought the D.A.’s report was insufficient, and the methodology was not investigating this at all, because you need D.H.S.-certified cyber experts to go through those log files to determine what was going on.
Crane: I’ve seen that the people, the authors and supporters of [Peters’] report, have gone to attacking [Mesa County D.A. Dan] Rubinstein. I can tell you that when election administrators across the state read that report, it was a little difficult not to laugh out loud. Not at the work that the forensic people that examined the report did in terms of seeing that there was an extra database created. But it’s the conclusions they drew from what was there, saying it was an illegal database and it’s evidence of the crack in the voting system. It’s just not true. What happened in Mesa County was obvious to somebody who knows election systems and election processes from the very beginning. There was an error made in the way that adjudication was set up. Let’s say you accidentally mark two candidates in the same contest, but you really meant to vote for Billy and not Matt. So then let’s say you write on there, or you circle or make it really clear that you want your vote to go to Bill. The system will see an overvote there, and then it will put the image of that ballot in a separate bucket for election judges to review. There’s an adjudication software module inside the Dominion and Clear Ballots system where that image will be presented to [the judges] on a screen and it’ll zero in on the contest in question. And then a bipartisan team of judges will look at that and see if they can determine voter intent.
Brauchler: Do the bipartisan judges have to be a Dem and an R? Could it be an unaffiliated and a D? An unaffiliated and an R?
Crane: Right now, the statute really pushes us to do D and R. It’s hard in a lot of counties to find one or the other, so we will backfill with [unaffiliateds], but we’ll never have two Ds or two Rs or two [unaffiliateds] working together.
Brauchler: When you say the word “Dominion,” instantly there are people out there who are like, well, if Dominion’s involved, of course it’s a broken thing. I want to talk about that. But does [that software] override or dictate to the two human beings that are in there — the Rs, Ds, or [unaffiliateds] — the outcome that they choose, and can it change the outcome that they choose?
Crane: It does not lead them to say, this looks like 68% more than this one. It just presents the image of the ballot and then it highlights the race in question. And then the judges can see on screen that you marked both ovals, but then you wrote a note or put an arrow or some kind of other designation that you wanted to vote for Bill. This happens a lot. People make a lot of mistakes on these ballots, so there’s quite a few ballots that go to adjudication. When you set it up, right now the process in Colorado is you set it to trigger to send ballots for overvotes. But in the course of counting ballots during the election, you don’t send it to flag undervotes. So what I think happened is that [Peters’] person set it up to flag both. She realized she made a mistake.
Brauchler: So what does that mean? What was the mistake she made?
Crane: Instead of just having the system flag overvotes, she had it flag undervotes and overvotes. So that’s going to flood adjudication with a ton of ballots, right? Because it’s not uncommon for people to undervote a contest. And she did it twice. She did it in the November 2020 election and in the April municipal election in Grand Junction, and staff in Mesa County. Things happen, right? Mistakes happen. So you go and you fix it and you move on. But what happens is that old database with the ballots gets pushed to the side, and then a new one is created so you don’t have conflicting data come through. You don’t need to have D.H.S. come in to validate that there was a mistake made in process that led to this extra database being created. So then, when they come in, they say the number of ballots that are in adjudication aren’t the same and they were changed. Well, of course, because if you change the filter on the type of ballots that are going to come through and you take away undervotes, you’re going to see far fewer ballots come through. And in adjudication, by design, you’re going to see the votes be updated. It’s going to change from an overvote to a vote for George Brauchler if voter intent can be shown.
Brauchler: It sounds like this is a very detailed way of saying, being a cyber expert might give you that front end data like, oh, look, there’s a discrepancy between this and that. But not being an election system expert deprives you of the explanation for that data that you’re seeing.
Crane: Or an election process expert analysis. Yeah, I think it’s unfortunate that the authors of this report say they relied on staff from Mesa County. I think it’s been established by Rubinstein [that] they didn’t rely on all the staff in Mesa County. They relied on people who obviously don’t know the systems or the processes.
Radio Caller #2 (Steve): You have these election deniers, and if they file pleading after pleading in court, particularly federal court, eventually the judge is going to say, enough, you can’t do this. You cannot suck the resources of this court. Is there any protection when a group consistently attempts to use the resources to challenge these things? I mean, for example, election denier groups could want to audit in Douglas County and audit in — you know, on and on and on. And after a while, there’s a depletion of resources. So is there any limit on how much a group can challenge and bog down the Clerk and Recorder’s office in all these counties?
Crane: Not that I’m aware of. And this has been an issue where clerks across the state — and quite honestly, across the country — get inundated with these requests to do audits, get inundated with open records requests. One of these groups that’s out there that’s leading the denial talk will fill out a standard form and send it out to people across the state — “send this to your clerk.” It’s just a blank form. So clerks will get this.
[Crane is referring to election fraud conspiracy group U.S. Election Integrity Plan, a QAnon-linked extremist group that sent armed volunteers to knock on voters’ doors and whose leaders have called for the hanging of Secretary of State Jena Griswold.]
Brauchler: And it’s not like they can ignore it. The law makes it pretty clear that within — I think it’s 72 hours, is that right? — you have to at least have some response like, I’m working on this.
Crane: Unless you’re busy in the office. You can push it to ten days. So that does take a lot of time and resources away from doing other government business. And it’s the same things, and a lot of the things they ask for don’t exist. And clerks want to educate people on what happens in elections. We want people to come in and take a look. However, when you see the claims that are made, the stuff that was [alleged] about Dominion was laughable on its face from the beginning. The president’s legal team in November 2020 dismissed it out of hand within a day. And it kept getting pushed for political purposes. And clerks are here to say, wait a second, guys, that’s not how it happens. This is why we have checks and balances. We can prove all of these things and people just don’t believe it because, you know, I think there’s a small percentage of people that are pushing this for either political or financial advantage. And it’s reprehensible what these people are doing. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask questions about the election process or that the election process is perfect. We are working every day to try to improve it. But some of these things that the people are pushing that are obviously not true, you know, that’s a problem.
Radio Caller #3 (Lynn): My sister lives in a western county, not Mesa. And for the last 12 years, she has received ballots addressed to her son, who no longer lives in the state, including this last primary. He’s an independent, so he got two ballots in the mail. Every time, she has not opened them but sent them back. She has called, he has called, the county clerk. And once again, this week she got ballots. And this has happened for the last 12 years. So there’s something wrong.
Brauchler: Lynn, can I just get a clarification? Not only is your sister still getting ballots, but the son who’s moved out is also getting additional ballots. Is that what you’re saying?
Lynn: Correct. The ballots that are addressed to her, of course, she uses because she lives there. She is not opening [his ballots], she is simply putting “not at this address” on his ballots. And this has happened for 12 years every single election.
Brauchler: This is not the first time I’ve heard something like this. Every election cycle, I have friends who take pictures of duplicate ballots they seem to be getting either at their address or someone else’s. And they send them to me and other folks and they’re like, man, why does this keep happening? And then we’ve had some people text in and say, look, I’m a property manager. When people move, I’m still getting these ballots. What am I supposed to do with them? So the question is, one, why does it keep happening? Two, how do you stop it? And then, I think the bigger one is — because people will be like, man, if there’s all these ballots out there, it’s probably going to result in fraudulently voted ballots — is there a check to keep those extra ballots from being voted? Sorry about all those questions.
Crane: No, that’s okay. You know, you’re right. This does happen. So a couple of things about this. It’s not uncommon, although it doesn’t happen at an alarming rate, where somebody may get two ballots. So if that happens, obviously, call your county clerk, tear up the ballot, throw it away — you know, don’t keep it laying around or anything like that. You don’t need to return it.
Brauchler: If you do what Lynn’s sister did and write on there “wrong address,” does that get communicated from the postal people back to the clerks?
Crane: It may. So one of the things I hope we’ll talk about today, George, is that voters play a key role in their own election security and their own ballot security. If you are moving out of state, you know, it’s not as easy to get off the rolls as you think it is. Obviously. That’s why we have some of these issues.
Brauchler: Why is that?
Crane: Some of it is federal law. [But] if you don’t vote but we don’t get return mail for you, then you get to stay active and get to receiving a ballot.
Brauchler: So the system’s going to interpret that as, the ballot got to where it’s supposed to go, but you just have chosen not to participate in this election. That shouldn’t cut you off from a future election.
Crane: Correct. If you move, especially if you move out of state — just as you would notify the utility department, just as you would notify all these people that you’re moving, “stop sending me bills” — you should go to govotecolorado.gov, and there’s a link there to withdraw your registration. So that’s something that you can do to take ownership over your election process here in Colorado. Let the county clerk know. Now, we’ve gotten a lot more sophisticated in terms of tracking who moves out of state and communications between the states. But let’s say you move to Florida, you register [to vote] in Florida, you don’t know that you were registered in Colorado, and that state isn’t a part of ERIC [the Electronic Registration Information Center] — that data gets shared with all the states that are part of ERIC. Then Colorado is not going to know.
Brauchler: How many states are part of ERIC?
Crane: I think last count was 31.
Brauchler: And so any time somebody moves within those 31 states, it gets communicated across — it’s like a compact, a driver’s license suspension. What are the reasons [for] the other 19 states saying, we don’t want to participate?
Crane: I’m not sure. ERIC is a program that is run and funded by the member states. It’s actually done a lot to improve the list maintenance for the member states. The Heritage Foundation, when they came out with their Election Integrity Scorecard back in January, gave states (including Colorado) high marks for being a part of ERIC. Now, we’ve seen some of the some of the crazy things that get said about elections get applied to ERIC as well, that ERIC somehow hurts voter registration and the accuracy of our voter rolls. Nothing could be further from the truth. ERIC has been a great tool. Oh yeah, it was implemented by Scott Gessler, who, last I checked, wasn’t soft on election integrity.
Radio Caller #4 (Frank): I really, really appreciate what you do. I think you’re one of the few that really digs for the truth. I really appreciate the in-depth interviews. I guess my question to you is, I meet a lot of people every day, and on a scale from 0 to 100, with 50 being in the middle, I’ve never met a person yet that wasn’t either 51 or 49, left or right. So my question is, how do you maintain your centrist position?
Crane: When I first got into election administration back in 2000, I worked for the guy who hired me in two elections. His name is Bill Compton, Democrat. He was the director of the Denver Election Commission at the time. And then he became the director of elections for the state under Secretary Donetta Davidson. And they’re both great friends and mentors of mine. But one of the things that they instilled in me from a very young age is that you have to leave your politics at the door. As soon as you bring your politics into your job as an election administrator, you open the door for people to question you. Some days it’s hard because, you know, I am a pretty conservative Republican, and I definitely have my thoughts on a lot of things going on. But the minute I insert that, the minute I put anything like that on social media, it hurts my ability to be seen as nonpartisan. And that’s something that we coach people on — stay away from politics. Your role as an election administrator, where you’re supposed to be an independent arbiter of the process, is far more important than your individual political opinion when you decide to take on a role like this.
Brauchler: It feels like the opposite of the Jena Griswold model of bringing politics into everything.
Radio Caller #5 (Brian): I dropped my ballot off at one of these boxes, these poll locations, and then somebody takes it from that box and puts it into a room. Is there ever a time that my ballot is not on a camera or in the presence of multiple people? Is there ever a time that that occurs? Because we saw in Detroit where people are boarding up the windows so people can’t see inside. We saw things stopped all of a sudden in certain swing states all over the country. All of a sudden they all stopped counting for some reason. And then we have a delay, and then all of a sudden we have a complete turnaround of events. Those kind of things, to me, are irregularities that seem nefarious. Colorado seems like it’s more on the up-and-up, but there’s definitely some things going on in different states with these irregularities, hiding from people, stuff like that. So, in Colorado, was my ballot always on a camera or always in the presence of of bipartisan people?
Brauchler: I too think that, if those things are true, that they are worth looking into. I’m skeptical. They’re nefarious. Start with the first question, which is, in Colorado, is that ballot ever left unattended? And if it is, what are the potential risks there? What’s done to address it? And then get to the part about Detroit.
Crane: The 24-hour [ballot] box is the preferred method of returning a mail ballot. Somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of those people who vote their mail ballot take it to a drop box. It is the fastest, most secure way to get your ballot back to us. County clerks are sending bipartisan teams to those boxes every day, sometimes multiple times a day, to pick up those boxes. So when they go to pick it up, it’s always in the presence of two people. When it goes back to the central count facility, those central count facilities are under camera coverage during the course of the election — and now, thanks to recent legislation, all year round. There’s always bipartisan teams working with your ballot. So, yes, when you deposit your ballot, you can trust that it is either in the presence of a bipartisan team or under 24/7 video surveillance.
Brauchler: What about before it gets to the central count facility?
Crane: So the ballot box, the 24-hour box, is under camera surveillance. So we can see that. And then once those judges come pick it up — I mean, we don’t have cameras in the car, but it’s [with] the bipartisan team.
Brauchler: Have you looked into what Brian suggested about some election facility in Detroit, I think he said, where it’s boarded up? And if anybody hears “building boarded up in Detroit,” they shrug and go, yeah, what else is new? But for an election facility — what is it about that? Did they try to keep people from watching? Did it happen at all? What’s going on?
[The caller and Brauchler are discussing events that took place vote on election night in Detroit, where an angry crowd of Trump supporters gathered outside the mail ballot counting center. The conspiracy of the boarded up windows was debunked immediately by the New York Times and CNN.]
Crane: No, I haven’t. I heard about it in another state. I have heard concerns about vans coming in to their central count facility, wherever they were doing it — late at night, four in the morning, whatever.
Brauchler: What’s that about?
Crane: In Michigan, you may have a polling place — they still run polling places. You may have a polling place that’s eight hours away. So at the end of Election Day, when the polls close, they have to go through all of their reconciliations, get everything together, and then start a trek back to wherever they are supposed to bring the ballots to. I don’t know this for sure, but to me, it’s entirely reasonable that in states like that, you have ballots coming in at all hours of the night.
Radio Caller #6 (Chris): How do you explain when states would stop their voting counts for the night, and all of a sudden — and Trump was ahead in several of these states — and then the next day, all of a sudden when they start resuming counting the votes, Biden was ahead? It happened in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania — it seemed like every state that did that, there seemed to be this awesome shift in votes towards Biden. And I have yet to hear a plausible explanation for why that happened. And the second question I want to ask is — I mean, the last election was a lost cause. I don’t necessarily doubt that Colorado’s election was above board because I never thought it was in jeopardy in the first place. Everybody knew Trump was going to lose in Colorado. But what is [your] organization doing for the future in terms of securing voter rolls, voter I.D., making our elections more secure? Could you talk a little bit about what your organization is doing in the future in terms of making sure that this stuff doesn’t happen again?
Crane: A couple of things. One, it is not uncommon, both here in Colorado and across the country — especially in big elections where we see a ton of turnout — for jurisdictions to stop counting on election night. Here in Arapahoe County, we stopped doing that back when Nancy Doty was Clerk and Recorder. When you have a lot of ballots still to go, accuracy has to come in front of speed. Judges get very tired. So, you know, we would call it by one or two in the morning and start back up the next day. So that’s nothing new.
Brauchler: One thing I remember is 2014 — when I went to bed, Bob Beauprez was leading Hickenlooper. And I do think they stopped counting. But you knew that the outstanding ballots were coming from Boulder and Denver. So I went to bed [with] Bob Beauprez ahead, but I thought, it’s over. He ain’t going to pull this thing off.
Crane: No, that’s right. And I haven’t spent a lot of time studying the the voter turnout and the trends in those other states. I can tell you, here in Colorado — let’s use Arapahoe County in 2018. The early results tend to favor Republicans. And then the Democrats do a phenomenal job here in the county of “get out to vote” at the last minute and on Election Day. So when the first results came out for me on election night in 2018 — and I think I was up by, I don’t know, 3,000 or 4,000 votes — and my staff’s congratulating me- “You won.” I’m like, “guys, I lost. I know by the end of this, I’m going to be underwater.” Now, it all depends on “get out to vote” efforts for the campaign, how effective the parties are — when do Republicans return their ballot as opposed to Democrats? All of those things make sense. It’s not anything nefarious that happens. And I bet you can track it from election to election where you can see a lot of these trends have probably been in place for a while.
Brauchler: Is there evidence out there that — and I’ve heard this repeated a bunch — that all of these states stopped counting kind of simultaneously?
Crane: No. That’s not true. They didn’t all stop counting at the same time. I think we saw more and more states stop counting, take a break and come back the next day precisely because, when you have more mail ballots, it’s a lot more paper to process. People wait until the last minute to vote. You’re not going to get it all done in one night. Here in Colorado, that hasn’t been the case for years. And you’re better off to give your people a break, let them go and get some rest, because accuracy is more important than speed.
Thorpe: You were talking about the thing in Detroit with the boarded up windows. The actual story is they were counting the ballots inside of the polling place. There are both Republican and Democrat observers, along with county employees, in there counting the ballots. All of that was happening. There’s a crowd that assembles outside the facility that comes over to the big bay windows that start right around your waist and they start pounding on them. “Stop the count! Stop the count!” They’re rattling the windows. So the people inside went up and papered over the windows. The count never stopped. No Republican or Democrat observers were ever kicked out of the facility. Nothing changed. They just covered up the windows for the psychopaths outside that were pounding on the windows. It slowed down [the pounding] a little bit because they couldn’t see people and they couldn’t intimidate people. But that’s why it happened. That’s the actual story inside of it. The other thing that we don’t have is any instance where a county, a state, or any group stopped counting ballots, and then when they started again, somebody else was dramatically ahead of where they were. Every single count picked up exactly where it left off, and that is verifiable and has been verified.
The full three-part radio interview can be found on the 710 KNUS podcast website under “The George Brauchler Show.”