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Citing wave of 2024 election threats, Griswold launches grant program

February 29, 2024, 10:06 am

From left, Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Molly Fitzpatrick speak at a press conference on election security in Denver on Feb. 28, 2024 (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline).

Local elections officials in Colorado will be able to pay for security upgrades to deal with election-related threats with funds from a grant program launched this week by Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Starting Friday, clerks from Colorado’s 64 counties can apply for reimbursement for security expenses including locks and key-card access technology, surveillance cameras, cybersecurity infrastructure and more. Accessibility upgrades, like additional handicap parking or language assistance at voter service centers, will also be eligible for the grants.

The $3.5 million in available funding, which comes from federal funds provided under the Help America Vote Act, will help protect Colorado’s reputation as the “gold standard” for elections administration, Griswold and leaders from the Colorado County Clerks Association said in a press conference Wednesday at the secretary of state’s office in Denver.

“One of the reasons we are considered the nation’s gold standard is that we continually innovate,” said Griswold. “And although we are considered the best state in the nation to cast a ballot, we have not been immune to the dangers and threats facing elections nationwide.”

Matt Crane, executive director of the CCCA, said the “threat landscape” in election security has evolved over the last eight years, following the unprecedented efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to deny and overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“In 2016, we saw cyber threats — they were the top of the pyramid of things we were concerned about, from foreign adversaries trying to do nefarious things,” Crane said. “In 2020, the physical security of our election workers became front and center.”

One in three election workers nationwide reported feeling unsafe in the course of fulfilling their duties in the wake of the 2020 election, noted Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Molly Fitzpatrick, who currently serves as the CCCA’s president.

“Clerks across the state have dealt with confrontational encounters with the public, extreme mis- and disinformation and internal threats,” Fitzpatrick said. “Election workers, judges and staff across the state have endured harassment and threats to their safety.”

The Boulder County clerk’s office has completed a variety of security upgrades over the last several years, including glass partitions and new controlled-access points, Fitzpatrick said, but many counties around the state may not have the funds to take such measures on their own.

“The reality is starkly different for smaller, more rural counties where resources are fewer,” she said. “It’s imperative that we foster and facilitate equitable access to funding opportunities, which will empower all counties in Colorado to bolster their infrastructure and their security.”

Federal law enforcement agencies have issued dire warnings about potential threats to the 2024 election, with one FBI official telling the winter conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington earlier this month that the outlook is “extremely alarming,” according to Stateline.

Though Colorado is unlikely to be a battleground state in a widely expected 2024 rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden, it has been a hotbed of pro-Trump election misinformation and threats of violence. Griswold, an outspoken critic of election conspiracists, has been the target of harassment and death threats, at least two of which have resulted in criminal convictions.

Far-right election deniers with Colorado ties include former Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who has been indicted for her role in an alleged breach of county election equipment; attorney John Eastman, who spearheaded Trump’s efforts to overturn election results while serving as a visiting faculty member at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Joe Oltmann, a far-right podcaster who was instrumental in advancing 2020 election conspiracy theories involving Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems and has called for his political opponents to be executed.

“Make no mistake: We are talking about threats against election infrastructure (and) election workers, we are talking about election workers being afraid to do their job, because Donald Trump has lied over and over and over about how elections work,” Griswold said Wednesday.

Most of the 64 county clerks in Colorado who will be in line to receive security funding through the grant program are Republicans, Griswold noted.

“What we’re seeing today, with the attack on democracy, with the attack on elections, it isn’t about a partisan disagreement,” she said. “It’s about one person and extremists around him, trying to use lies to undermine confidence in elections … which is undemocratic and un-American, and we cannot allow it to stand.”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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