Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz joined a bipartisan group of clerks from across the state in Denver on Sunday to call on critics who have claimed that Colorado’s election practices are fraudulent to back up their allegations with evidence.
“We call on the individuals behind these allegations and ongoing disinformation to provide actual evidence of problems within our system to law enforcement, either through county district attorneys, or even directly through an outreach to the Colorado General Attorney,” Weld County Clerk Carly Koppes told reporters at the Denver County Elections Division.
County clerks and recorders said they are receiving an increasing number of emails, phone calls and office visits in recent months from constituents concerned about claims of fraudulent elections. These range from assertions that thousands of fake votes were cast in 2020 using the identities of deceased Coloradans, to claims that Colorado’s election servers reside in China.
“These claims are often lengthy and full of jargon, and they do not provide proof or data,” said Molly Fitzpatrick, Boulder County Clerk and Recorder. “They consistently demonstrate a lack of understanding of our process.”
Ortiz said at least five different groups have become active in Pueblo in the past several months and have been working to mislead constituents and spread disinformation about issues including gun rights and elections practices.
“We got a lot of complaints from people saying that they voted, and these people were telling them that they hadn’t voted,” Ortiz said. “So we had to prove to them, using our data and software, to show them that they voted.”
Pueblo election security:Pueblo County elections clerk Ortiz refutes ‘slanderous’ claims of ballot mishandling
Gearing up for midterms
The clerks’ gathering came as Colorado and the rest of the nation gear up for midterm elections in November, and days ahead of planned rallies by what the state County Clerks’ Association called “election conspiracy groups.”
“We can no longer stand by while a small group of well-funded conspiracy theorists prepare to gather on our Capitol steps to further share their half-truths and lies,” La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee said.
“We are elected at the county level by the people most of us have lived among for decades. We do the work of our offices with little fanfare. We do it because this is the way we serve our state and our country. We deliver the sacred American right to vote in safe and fair elections,” she said.
Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez said the complaints about the election system are “a deliberate attempt to undermine our democracy.”
“We have seen attempts from folks outside of our country to try to erode our democracy. We’ve seen that. These are attempts from within, to try to erode the trust in what we do,” he said.
Colorado clerks are locally elected officials. Their duties include administering and controlling elections for their counties.
‘Attacking the castle’
Ortiz said his office has received numerous complaints from Pueblo residents who said they were approached at their homes by armed canvassers claiming to be representatives of the county clerk’s office.
“Some of those people were carrying guns,” Ortiz said. “So a lot of the people were calling and complaining that we were sending people out to them that were carrying a gun, and we had to convince them that they weren’t a part of our office.”
Many of the canvassers yelled insults at homeowners after being asked to leave, Ortiz said residents told his staff.
“It’s really interesting, because you read these books about war and protesting, and they all talk about the castle and how you’re going to ‘attack the castle,’ from multiple angles,” Ortiz said. “And that’s really what they’re doing. They’re trying to find every angle they can.”
Ortiz said his office also recently took down a fraudulent Facebook page that was mimicking the official “Pueblo Votes” page.
“They’re trying to tear down democracy,” he said. “And we’re seeing it from the inside with people that are waving flags and talking about the Constitution, which is frightening.”
More on Pueblo elections:Here’s who is on the ballots for the primary and general elections in Pueblo
Pueblo native Anthony Settipani is a freelance reporter and photographer based in Denver