DENVER – Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday sent the Election Security Act, the bill aimed at further protecting Colorado’s elections in the wake of breaches in Mesa County and investigations into other possible breaches, to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis.
SB22-153 strengthens some of the election security laws already on the books but also puts new loss in place, including making it a felony to access voting equipment without authorization or publishing confidential election information.
It also requires election officials and employees to get certified on election law, security, and risk-limiting audits, bars people from being an election official if they have prior election offense convictions, requires 24/7 surveillance of election equipment, gives $1 million in grant money to counties to look at possible election risks and upgrade equipment, and adds new requirements and rules requiring electronic voting equipment and election certifications.
The bill was a direct response to the election security breach last year in Mesa County, over which Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and her deputy clerk were indicted on felony charges tied to tampering with election equipment, identity theft and official misconduct.
According to investigation results released so far, someone turned off the cameras at the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office ahead of a trusted build of the elections system, made copies of hard drive images, and leaked passwords for the voting system, which were posted on Telegram and the right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit.
On Tuesday, a Mesa County judge again agreed with Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued to remove Peters as Mesa County’s designated election official for a second year in a row over the breach and her continued espousal of false election conspiracies tied to the 2020 election.
Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder also had to turn over copies of election system hard drives he made last year after a judge’s order earlier this month after he refused to comply with election orders from Griswold handed down in January and she sued him.
During debate on the bill, Democrats voted down proposed amendments from several Republicans that included language about voter fraud that some of the conspiracy theorists have widely used over the past two years surrounding dead voters, mail ballots and ballot harvesting.
“Since the 2020 Election, we have seen election officials in Colorado and in other states compromise voting equipment and breach election security rules to prove unfounded conspiracy theories,” Griswold said in a statement after the bill’s passage. “This first-in-the-nation legislation makes it a felony to compromise voting equipment and increases protections against those seeking to harm to elections from within.”
The bill was sponsored by Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, and backed by Griswold.
Lawmakers also passed SB22-133, which provides security from Colorado State Patrol for the secretary of state, state treasurer, and attorney general – something Griswold had asked for after facing numerous threats since the 2020 election.
“Across the country, Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State and election officials have been the target of increasing threats. These threats are not just personal attacks. They aim to undermine our elections and are an attack on democracy,” Griswold said in a statement. “Serving in elected office should not require signing up for threats of violence without support.”