No fraudits allowed: I banned fraudulent election audits so Colorado won't become Arizona

·4 min read
Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

More than seven months have passed since Election Day. The Department of Homeland Security, FBI, U.S. Cyber Command and Republican U.S. attorneys in the Justice Department have all said that the 2020 election was secure.

Yet, some elected officials continue to discredit the election results for their own political advantage. With more than 400 voter suppression bills introduced across the nation and election misinformation reaching a crescendo, the urgency to save our nation and democracy is palpable. And now, on top of it all, we also have to contend with the emergence of “fraudits.”

Fraudits, or fraudulent election audits, started in Arizona, where Republican legislators hired a partisan firm with no election experience to conduct a faulty, insecure audit.

Fraudits are expensive and corrosive

What they might not have realized were the associated costs. Giving an unaccredited, inexperienced company access to voting equipment creates major security issues, so much so that Arizona will likely need to spend more than $6 million to replace compromised voting equipment.

But the costs aren’t the point. The point of the fraudit is to erode confidence in the 2020 election as a means to justify passing voter suppression bills, so that politicians get to pick their voters instead of the other way around. The fraudit is so popular that the Maricopa County arena hosting it is now a tourist destination for those seeking to replicate fraudits around the country and continue the attack on fair elections.

That’s why we need immediate, bold action to save our democracy. Congress must keep trying to pass reform bills to protect Americans’ right to vote and strengthen our elections, including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And we must ensure that people who believe in democracy are elected to serve as the chief election officers of their state as secretary of state.

Examining Maricopa County ballots in Phoenix on May 24, 2021.
Examining Maricopa County ballots in Phoenix on May 24, 2021.

Democratic secretaries of state have been on the front lines of debunking lies about the election, protecting our right to vote and adopting measures to strengthen our election systems. In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has documented multiple irregularities arising from the sham audit in her state. They pose such deep security risks that she decided she would decertify affected voting equipment. In Michigan, Secretary of state Jocelyn Benson instructed election clerks not to allow unaccredited outside parties to conduct unauthorized audits – all while GOP officials there push for a sham “forensic audit” of the 2020 election.

Jonathan Rauch: Arizona's election audit is an attack by Americans on other Americans

In my home state of Colorado, some county election officials were being pressured, at times with threats, to conduct fraudits. So I took action. A week ago, I issued election rules to prohibit unauthorized, inexperienced third parties from accessing our critical election infrastructure – thus prohibiting fraudits in Colorado. Only accredited people with background checks can access our voting systems. We will not allow the pinnacle of democracy, our elections, to be used to spread disinformation and ultimately take away Americans’ constitutional right to vote.

Not surprisingly, some of the Big Lie’s biggest proponents – from Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – immediately spewed a litany of lies about whether we would allow election audits to be pursued at all.

Don't elect officials who are anti-voter

The actual truth is that Colorado’s risk-limiting audits are bipartisan and the best election audits in the country. We are the nation’s gold standard for elections, with the second-highest turnout rate in America – in part thanks to reforms my office has spearheaded to make Colorado elections the most secure and accessible in the nation.

Only Congress can save voting rights: Democratic walkout blocks Texas voter bill – for now

We have stopped fraudits in Colorado, but the attacks on democracy are not ending. That’s why in 2022, voters can play a big role in protecting voting rights by electing secretaries of state who will expand, not curb, their access to the ballot box. Democracy will be on the ballot in battleground states, where the same politicians who supported overturning the 2020 election results and who are advancing voter suppression bills are now running to become secretaries of state.

As a nation, we are at a turning point and face a crucial question: Should eligible Americans get to choose their elected officials? Those who push voter suppression, the Big Lie or fraudits don’t think so. For me, the answer is a resounding "yes." I hope it is for you you, too. Because we must all lean in to protect our democracy from those who are actively attempting to end it.

Jena Griswold, a Democrat, is Colorado's secretary of state. Follow her on Twitter: @JenaGriswold

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fraudulent election audits like Arizona's endanger democracy: Griswold

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