The Custer Board of County Commissioners held a special meeting Wednesday evening to hear from prominent election conspiracy advocates who urged county officials to remove the county’s Dominion voting machines. Speakers during Wednesday’s special BOCC meeting included MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Douglas County podcaster and defamation defendant Joe Oltmann, former Lauren Boebert campaign manager and “America’s Mom” Sherrona Bishop, Jan. 6 rioter Shawn Smith, and Park County Commissioner Amy Mitchell, who is also a proponent of the Dominion Voting conspiracy.

“We’re on a fact-gathering mission,” said Custer County Commissioner Bill Canda.

Wednesday’s meeting comes weeks after an April 20 event in Westcliffe hosted by activist group Liberty Rocks that featured Oltmann, a screening of the Jan. 6 conspiracy film “Let My People Go,” and a Gideon 300 training session. Oltmann’s Gideon 300 plan calls for activists to disrupt county commission meetings, resist arrest, and demand the removal of electronic voting machines. Oltmann and his Conservative Daily cohost, former New Mexico business professor turned election conspiracy filmmaker David Clements, have led film screenings and Gideon 300 trainings across the country.

“People are saying, ‘Come armed to this thing,’” warned Jordan Hedberg, publisher of the Wet Mountain Tribune, during the regularly-scheduled BOCC meeting Wednesday morning. “The sheriff was given a battle ax to lead against you guys [by Oltmann]. Nobody that is in their right mind is going to show up to this meeting tonight. There is no security, the sheriff is in on it, you guys are doing it in a rental area where they practiced how to force the Commissioners into something at the point of a gun, and you’re going to walk into it.”

Part of the Gideon 300 plan includes engaging local sheriffs. “Our expectation is that you’re going to stand with us since we elected you,” said Clements during a January episode of Conservative Daily.

Custer County Sheriff Lloyd Smith addressed Hedberg’s claims in an email. “These claims are mostly taken out of context or inaccurate,” he wrote. “This is probably due to the fact that [Hedberg] didn’t attend the event that he reported on and had to rely on second or third hand information.”

Sheriff Smith says he did attend the April 20 Liberty Rocks event, and was presented an ax, but that he returned the ax to the event organizer. Smith also clarified statements he made during the event regarding actions he would take against any kind of Gideon 300 action during a BOCC meeting.

“Law enforcement officers are prohibited from arresting people exercising their First Amendment Rights,” he wrote. “We would act if there was behavior that elevated to a level of a crime.”

Sheriff Smith also described the security preparations for the meeting. “On Tuesday April 7, I was invited to attend a partial Board of Commissioners Meeting at the BOCC office,” he explained. “The two commissioners present expressed concern about rumors in town and on social media about the upcoming BOCC Special Meeting. I attempted to clarify the concerns presented in the Hedberg article, as I had actually attended the event and he lacked the valuable first hand knowledge of what had been discussed and in what context. The attendees seemed universally supportive of law enforcement and the rule of law. The average age of the attendees was between 60 and 75 which, based on my experiences, would be less likely to promote violence.  I also discussed their security concerns. Ultimately, the Commissioners asked that I provide at least six deputies for event security. I agreed to do so. It is not unusual for the Commissioners to request security. I probably spent more than 100 hours for security for their meetings.”

“This meeting is going to be one-sided — we’re going to hear one side of the national debate,” said John Van Doren during the Wednesday morning meeting. “I would have loved to bring in another one or two speakers that could show the other side of that same debate, but this is going to be one-sided ,so it’s planted and rigged towards a predetermined outcome. The thing that wasn’t discussed today and I think this is very important is Gideon 300 promotes the disruption of BOCC meetings by what they call ‘a show of force.’ I would call that just quiet violence. So what are you doing about security tonight if that happens? If they stand up and demand that you commissioners vote in a particular way?” 

Other commenters were more direct in their assessment of the special meeting. “Pure horseshit,” was how one resident described the claims of election fraud.

Canda(left) and Cook

Despite the concerns, the evening meeting was relatively tame. The only speaker physically present was Mark Cook, a self-described “IT guy from a small town in Colorado,” who led the discussion in between Zoom and phone appearances from Oltmann, Lindell, and the others. Cook’s presentation focused on the unreliability of voting machines, the work of what he described as an “election cartel,” and the Hunter Biden laptop, among other topics during the three-hour meeting.

“I was given evidence on January 9th, 2021 that explained everything, that things were done with computers,” said Lindell.

Lindell’s source for his evidence, as he has previously stated, is Dennis Montgomery. Montgomery is the originator of the “Hammer and Scorecard” conspiracy, and was also accused of fraud by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, was charged with felony theft charges for writing $1 million in bad checks to Caesar’s Palace casino in Las Vegas, and committed perjury in a 2009 civil case. Multiple cybersecurity experts who have reviewed the material Lindell obtained from Montgomery have said it does not contain evidence of fraud.

Shawn Smith referenced the Mesa County Report — a review of the Dominion Voting Systems  data illegally obtained by former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, and subsequently debunked by Mesa County officials — and the experience of its authors. Smith did not mention Mesa County Report author Doug Gould’s 2021 podcast appearance where he repeated absurd QAnon conspiracy theories about Trump’s sealed indictments and the professional intelligence training given to antifa.

Both Smith and Lindell referenced the work of computer science researcher J. Alex Halderman. “Alex Halderman hacked into the machine with a ballpoint pin and flipped an election in front of a judge,” claimed Lindell.


Smith and Lindell neglected to mention that, in a deposition filed by the plaintiff in the Coomer v. Trump defamation suit, Halderman explicitly rejected the majority of the claims made by the presenters during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Defendants’ vote-rigging allegations were always implausible, consisting of wild speculation, readily debunked claims, and incoherent technical assertions, and months of subsequent investigations and audits have both failed to vindicate their theories and added further evidence that the election outcome was correctly decided,” wrote Halderman in his 23-page deposition.

“While I and other scientists have warned for many years that there are security weaknesses in voting systems sold by all major vendors, credible election security experts have never claimed that such vulnerabilities were actually exploited to alter the outcome of an election in the United States,” wrote Halderman. “Technical, physical, and procedural safeguards complicate the task of maliciously exploiting election systems, as does the distributed nature of U.S. elections. Monitoring of likely adversaries by law enforcement and the intelligence community increases the probability that an attempted attack would be discovered and foiled. Merely citing the existence of technical flaws, as Defendants have tended to do, does not establish that an attack occurred, much less that it altered the Presidential election outcome.”

Oltmann, the central defendant in the Coomer v. Trump suit, continued his claims of election fraud during the Custer County meeting. “The evidence is massive, it’s not just a small piece of evidence,” he said. “The system architecture of Dominion Voting Systems could not withstand any scrutiny. It’s built on standards that go back to 2005.”

Halderman noted in his deposition, “claims such as Oltmann’s, that assert to have found ‘proof’ of an improbable event by connecting the dots among widely disparate pieces of evidence in an ill-defined manner, are characteristic of ‘crackpot’ conspiracy theories. This should have cast doubt on the entirety of Oltmann’s allegations in the mind of any responsible party.”

Oltmann referenced many cases debunked in Halderman’s deposition, such as “flipping votes” and election irregularities in Antrim County, Michigan. “In Antrim County, there were major errors in the initial, unofficial election-night results,” wrote Halderman. “County officials quickly discovered and corrected these problems. County and state officials also quickly explained, correctly, that the problems were caused by human error and not by any kind of fraud or security breach.”

Despite the concerns aired at the Wednesday meeting, the Custer County BOCC has little authority over the elections, with only budgetary power over Custer County Clerk Kelley Camper.

“Commissioner Canda claims that — and this group — claims that they are the majority and that that’s how a majority of the people in the county feel,” Camper told CTR. “They aren’t the majority and that’s not how the majority feel … They’re a very small group, but they’re very vocal.”

Custer County Commissioner Lucas Epp mentioned Camper during his closing remarks. “We need to think through this strategically,” he said. “We need to get arms around our clerk — in a loving way — and educate and assist her through this. All the clerks have been lied to a lot through Colorado.”

Sheriff Smith was underwhelmed by the event. “I recognized nearly everyone present from both sides of the issue,” he said. “I listened to some of the presentations, but also talked to attendees in the foyer, patrolled by foot the parking lots and surrounding streets and alley. The average age of the attendees was between 60 and 75 with one teenager. Several people left the meeting early and complained to me about the acoustics and the sound system. Over the first hour approximately 20 people left early. They expressed frustration to me that the speakers only represented one side of the voting machine issue. One person specifically told me he felt unsafe to make a public comment. I assured him that I and my staff were there to ensure his safety. I also asked if he had received the written comment form that I had asked the Commissioners to provide so his comments would still be accepted for the record. He told me that he had received the form and had turned it in. In the end the meeting turned out to be a non-event. There was no shouting, no threats, no civil disobedience. There were no crimes and no arrests.The attendees that stayed to the end, helped pick up trash and stack the folding chairs for storage.”

In 2020, Donald Trump won Custer County in a landslide, more than doubling the votes received by Joe Biden, 68% – 31%.

In an email, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold condemned the event. “Elected officials must stand up to election denialism,” she said. “It is extremely disappointing that elected officials – who won free and fair elections right here in Colorado – continue to give election-denying extremists a microphone to disparage our democratic institutions. Colorado’s elections are safe and secure.”

Erik Maulbetsch contributed to this reporting.