People who tamper with voting materials or post confidential information about the voting system in Colorado could face felony charges punishable by up to three years in prison under a measure introduced Friday by Colorado Democrats and backed by state and local election officials.
Senate Bill 153 would also bar those convicted of certain offences, including attempting to overthrow the government, from serving as election officials.
The legislation is a pointed response to the controversies surrounding Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who last week was charged with 10 counts related to a security breach in her county’s electoral system.
Peters, a Republican who cast unfounded doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election, allegedly brought an unauthorized person to a sensitive Dominion Voting Systems election software update in May 2021, after which photographs of passwords taken during the update have been published. in line.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and local and state authorities are investigating Peters, who also faces investigations related to alleged ethics and campaign finance violations centered on the flights and lodging she agreed to. from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the nation’s most vocal election conspiracy theorists.
“I don’t think we were thinking about insider threats before Mesa,” Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold said Monday at a press conference unveiling the legislation. “People are showing up to oversee the elections across this country who embrace conspiracy theories.
Peters is — over the objection of members of his own party — running to replace Griswold as the state’s top election official.
The bill would require 24/7 video surveillance and key card access for rooms storing county election materials. It would also require election officials to undergo training before overseeing an election, a recognition that officials unfamiliar with election systems are more susceptible to scam artists and bad actors. Finally, the bill would increase penalties for those who attempt to interfere with elections.
“We won’t let conspiracy theorists threaten our democracy,” said Senate Speaker Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, who is a lead sponsor of the bill.
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The Colorado County Clerks Association supports the measure. Association President Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz, a Pueblo County Clerk and Democrat, called it the most important election bill since Colorado dramatically expanded mail-in voting in 2013.
The legislation is part of a wrap of measures at the Colorado Capitol this year aimed at addressing threats to election workers and misinformation, such as unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election. Among those proposals is one that would protect election workers against threats and doxxing, or public publication of their personal information, usually with the intent to cause them harm, and efforts to provide more Security for Griswold and other state officials.
Vermont, Maine, Washington and other states have adopted similar measures. Griswold’s office recently sued the Republican Elbert County Clerk in a separate election security case.
Here are some additional details about Senate Bill 153, which is also sponsored by Rep. Susan Lontine, a Democrat from Denver:
- Under the bill, people who have been convicted of election-related offenses or conspiracy to commit sedition, insurrection, treason or conspiracy to overthrow the government could not serve as local elections.
- Oversight election officials, such as county clerks, would be prohibited from knowingly or recklessly spreading misinformation about the election.
- County clerks and some state employees working on elections should complete a voter certification program provided by the office of the Colorado Secretary of State. This program is currently required for certain employees of the county clerk’s and recorder’s offices. The program would include courses on voter registration, mail-in ballots, in-person voting processes and election security. County clerks who do not complete the course would not be allowed to oversee their county’s elections. “I think it’s really important, given the deluge of misinformation, that we provide — the secretary of state’s office — provide the training for designated election officials,” Griswold said.
- Counties would not be allowed to create or disclose an image of their voting system’s hard drive without state permission. Local election officials should also keep all parts of their voting system in a room with key card access and keep a tracking log of who enters. All parts of the voting system are also expected to be kept under video surveillance, with video being maintained for 25 months. As part of the Mesa County saga, an unknown person was allegedly allowed into secure parts of the county election office using an access badge belonging to a contractor. Security cameras in the area were reportedly disabled.
- Elected officials in counties with a population of 100,000 or more could not have swipe card access to rooms equipped with voting equipment and could not be in such a room unattended. These officials are currently not authorized to prepare or repair voting materials. County clerks are elected.
- The legislation would set aside $500,000 to fund a state grant program to help counties comply with bill requirements, such as key card and video surveillance warrants.
Finally, the legislation would expand citizens’ duty to comply with state election rules and policies, including how to use the statewide voter registration system in the state. exercise of their official functions. Failure to do so would be punishable by six to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Preventing someone from notifying the state of a potential violation of the proposed law would result in a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time of up to one year.
Those who knowingly help post passwords or other confidential information to the voting system would, under the bill, immediately have their access to the system revoked and would have committed a Class 5 felony.
Tampering with voting materials to alter the tabulation of votes is an offense under current laws. Colorado Law.
Citing Peters’ recent grand jury indictment, Fenberg said he believed his actions were already illegal.
“It’s not like we’re making things that she’s done illegal retroactively, it’s actually thinking proactively, to make sure we have protections in place and we’re able to catch the bad actors in the future,” he said.