DENVER – Only one Republican in Colorado’s House and Senate voted Tuesday in favor of Democratic-led resolutions urging Congress to pass new voting rights resolutions, while more than a dozen voted to approve failed amendments supporting those at the Capitol last Jan. 6 and conspiracy theories about the election.
Several Republican House members offered amendments, which were rejected in the Democratic-led chamber, again falsely calling into question President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, asking for more audits of Colorado’s elections systems, upholding former President Trump’s false claims about the election and election security, and offering support to Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters.
Peters is under investigation by a grand jury and the secretary of state is seeking to remove her as the county’s designated election official again this year over her unsubstantiated election fraud claims and alleged tampering with the county’s election equipment.
The Democratic led resolutions – HR22-1004 and SM22-001 – call on Congress, and specifically the Senate, to pass voting rights bills already passed in the House, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Accountability Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. They referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and “his heroic efforts to advance voting rights.”
The voting rights measures have stalled in the Senate because Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said they will not abolish the filibuster to pass the measures, and no Republican senators support them.
The resolutions also call Colorado’s elections systems the nation’s “premier electoral system as a model for states” and say they worry about efforts across the country, primarily from Republicans, to restrict voting access, as well as about unproven conspiracy theories that have run rampant among some Republicans about the integrity of the 2020 election.
All Colorado Democrats in both chambers who were present voted to approve the measures, while Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, was the lone Republican to approve either measure. None of the 24 House Republicans approved of the House resolution.
“We will not stand by while states pass laws to suppress the vote and take us back to when people of color were denied their fundamental constitutional rights,” said Rep. Kerry Tipper, D-Lakewood, who was one of the prime sponsors of the House resolution.
“Silence about the lies and conspiracies that were spread about the 2020 election is what led to the violent insurrection on Jan. 6,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, another prime sponsor.
In a statement as discussion about the measures was ongoing, House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, said the results of the last election “are settled.”
But he and other Republicans introduced amendments either contradicting that statement or feeding into the notion that there are irregularities with votes and elections. McKean did say Tuesday that “Joe Biden won the election in 2020.”
But he also offered an amendment that sought to add language that Colorado should “commit to ensuring that dead people are removed from the voter rolls and that those who are unlawfully present in the United States are never able to vote in Colorado elections.” Twenty-two Republicans voted to approve it, but the amendment failed.
“States like Colorado with respected voting systems can shine because state law – not partisan federal edicts – determines how these systems work,” McKean said in a statement. “The last thing we need is the federal government stepping in and nationalizing voting procedures.”
Colorado GOP Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown called the resolutions from Democrats distractions from issues Republicans would like voters to focus on and said the Republican party has “complete confidence that we will win this upcoming election.”
Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Penrose, who is running for the GOP nomination to face U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in November and who attended the Jan. 6 rally at the U.S. Capitol and tried to force McKean out as minority leader last year, offered an amendment that sought a forensic audit of the 2020 and 2021 elections in Colorado like he has backed in Arizona, which found no irregularities.
It also contained language about warning others about using Dominion Voting Systems, referencing China and he claimed were “not secure” and about pushing legislatures in various states “to control the conduct of elections in their states” – a nod to the idea that legislatures could determine their own slate of electors who could vote in defiance of a state’s popular vote.
The amendment, too, was rejected, but 19 Republicans voted in favor of its passage.
Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, who is challenging incumbent Congressman Doug Lamborn this year, offered two amendments that were rejected.
One sought to push more forensic audits while asking to “call into question the legitimacy of Joseph R. Biden to be president,” for all of Colorado to stop using Dominion Voting Systems, to “offer our support” to the under-investigation Peters, and to “urge the decertification of election results” in states where enough has been found to change the election outcome in Trump’s favor. Fifteen Republicans voted in favor of the amendment.
His other amendment sought to thank Rep. Hanks and others who joined him for the Capitol events on Jan. 6 and to commit to removing dead voters from voter rolls and barring undocumented immigrants from voting. The amendment was also rejected but was approved by 16 Republicans.
In Colorado, people who are not U.S. citizens are not allowed to vote. The only publicized case of voter fraud that has been charged in Colorado stemming from the 2020 election involves Barry Morphew, who is accused of voting for Donald Trump on his wife’s ballot, whom he has been accused of killing.
There have only been a handful of other voter fraud cases confirmed over the past five years.
A Colorado Springs woman pleaded guilty in early September 2017 to voter fraud and forgery for casting a vote in her deceased mother’s name in 2013. And Tony Lee Newbill, of Golden, pleaded guilty in February 2017 to voting on her dead father’s ballot.
In December 2017, former Colorado GOP Chairman Steve Curtis was convicted of voter fraud and forgery for signing his ex-wife’s mail-in ballot for her. He was sentenced in February to four years of probation.
In 2019, a Mesa County woman pleaded guilty to voting twice in an election in 2018 after she cast a mail ballot for her son, who voted in person at his university as well. The charge was dismissed in April 2020 after she completed her probation successfully.
In an interview Tuesday, Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who sued Peters earlier Tuesday seeking to remove her as Mesa County’s designated election official, condemned those Republicans who applauded the resolution standing with Peters. Peters has said the newly formed grand jury would prove her innocence.
Griswold, who is up for reelection this year as Republicans try to re-take any of the statewide seats and seats in the legislature, has been among the nation’s loudest voices in pushing back against Trump’s false election fraud claims and has become a foil for Republicans in Colorado seeking to push the idea there are problems with Colorado’s elections and mail-in ballots.
“I think the showing of today from the legislature does show that the Big Lie is growing bigger, it’s here in Colorado, it’s across the nation. And its intent is to suppress the vote, chip away at confidence, and undermine election infrastructure,” Griswold said.
“Ultimately, my job is to make sure that there’s sufficient oversight of Colorado’s elections during a really trying time when we are seeing attacks on elections and attacks on the right to vote really take hold across the nation. That’s my job, and that’s what I’m going to do,” she added. “…For me, the vitriol, the name calling, that’s not what’s going to drive my decision-making. What’s going to drive my decision making is the simple principle that every Colorado voter should have access to safe and secure elections, and I’ll do everything in my power to make that happen while I’m secretary of state.”
The committee investigating the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol issued subpoenas Tuesday for Colorado-based attorney Jenna Ellis, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn regarding their advancing of “unsupported theories about election fraud [and] pushed efforts to overturn the election results,” according to committee chairman Bennie Thompson.