People can exaggerate and still worry about real problems. Take Jena Griswold and her recent remarks about election integrity. She overstated the risks pretty dramatically, but nevertheless various candidates running throughout the country pose a real threat to free and fair elections.
Here’s what Griswold told the Guardian: “What we can expect from the extreme Republicans running across this country is to undermine free and fair elections for the American people, strip Americans of the right to vote, refuse to address security breaches and, unfortunately, be more beholden to Mar-a-Lago than the American people. . . . The country could lose the right to vote and we could lose . . . more of our fundamental freedoms in less than three months.”
9News’s Kyle Clark is among those who took Griswold literally but not seriously. He accused her of spreading “election misinformation” and said she “did not provide evidence . . . that Republicans could soon end US elections.” Griswold told Clark through a spokesperson, “To clarify, the right to vote is at risk for many Americans across the country.”
The Gazette accused Griswold of “shrill, hyper-partisan rhetoric.” Columnist Jimmy Sengenberger wrote that “Griswold personifies shameless ambition, feckless leadership and raw partisanship” and suggested she’s making “a political mountain out of a molehill” or even “fabricating [an existential threat] out of whole cloth.”
And yet Griswold is not just totally making up the wolf pack. The howls in the distance are real, even if the wolves are not gnashing at our doors. In the same article, Sengenberger discusses “the corrupt clerk” Tina Peters of Mesa County who “became the poster child for bogus claims of widespread fraud in Colorado’s elections.” Peters currently faces criminal prosecution for breaches in election machine security.
Despite her relentless election conspiracy mongering, 129,092 Coloradans voted for Peters in the three-way Secretary of State primary race. Even if we discount a few of those votes as leftist unaffiliated voters trying to “torpedo” the viable Republican candidate, that’s a shocking number of people willing to promote Peters’s nonsense. Thankfully, Pam Anderson, the responsible candidate, won the day with 210,045 votes. She now faces Griswold in the general election. Obviously both major parties want to win, so we should look at attacks by both sides in that light.
I asked both Anderson and Griswold for further comment on the topic of election security. Both graciously responded. I include Anderson’s complete remarks here. Notice that, although Anderson harshly criticizes Griswold, she does not dismiss all of Griswold’s concerns.
Here is what I asked Anderson: “Do you acknowledge that following the 2020 presidential elections Trump and his supporters attempted to overturn the election results? Do you acknowledge that various candidates now running for Secretary of State (elsewhere) and for Congress falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was ‘rigged’ and may make similar unfounded claims in future elections?”
Here is Anderson’s reply: “Thank you for reaching out. My answer is yes to both questions. Additionally, I think first and foremost we have to turn down the intensity of the false partisan rhetoric. Elected officials and candidates have made claims of rigged or stolen elections that are false and they have failed to produce evidence that support those claims.
“I have stood up on behalf of competent and experienced election officials and all Coloradans, regardless of their political affiliations. But there are also people of good conscience that are influenced by false rhetoric from candidates on the polarizing and hyper-political left and right when they seek to politicize elections administration. When my opponent makes outrageous and false claims that Americans will lose the right to vote in three months, this is the flip side of the Tina Peters coin. I have never seen such a blatant attempt by a Colorado Secretary of State with such false rhetoric focused on influencing the outcome of future elections, rather than the duty to focus on the fair process of elections.
“Politics can be ugly, but our next Secretary of State has to rise above and push back on false and misleading claims from all partisan interests with facts and data, and not meet outrageous claims with even more outrageous claims. We need to return the office to an experienced, fair, professional referee to restore the broken trust by politicians and rebuild voter confidence in Colorado, which is exactly why I’m running.”
I asked Griswold to describe her specific concerns. Please note that I did not ask her to directly respond to Anderson’s criticisms; it’s safe to assume that she would dispute Anderson’s characterization of her remarks.
In addition to providing links to news articles too extensive to include here, Griswold said, “GOP nominee for Pennsylvania Governor Doug Mastriano has pledged that—if he becomes Pennsylvania’s next governor—he’ll appoint someone to be Secretary of State who will ‘reset’ the voter rolls and force everyone to re-register and have the power to ‘make corrections to elections’ and ‘decertify every machine in the state with the stroke of a pen.’
“He is joined by other GOP nominees for Governor in threatening free and fair elections, including: Tudor Dixon in Michigan, who tweeted that the election was stolen by ‘obvious’ and ‘sloppy’ voter fraud, has called for tightening election laws by banning ballot drop boxes, among other things; Kari Lake in Arizona, who has said she would not have certified the election if she had been governor in November of 2020, which would have taken the election away from the people; Tim Michels in Wisconsin, who has said ‘maybe’ the 2020 election was stolen, declined to say whether he would certify the election in 2024.
“Secretary of State GOP nominees who dispute the 2020 election include: Wes Allen (Alabama), Mark Finchem (Arizona), Dominic Rapini (Connecticut), Diego Morales (Indiana), Rayla Campbell (Massachusetts), Kristina Karamo (Michigan), Kim Crockett (Minnesota), Jim Marchant (Nevada), Audrey Trujillo (New Mexico), H. Brooke Paige (Vermont), Chuck Gray (Wyoming).”
I’ll add a few details to Griswold’s remarks. In Wyoming, the election conspiracy monger Chuck Gray, who is now essentially a shoo-in for Secretary of State there, has his fellow Republicans so spooked that they’re seeking to limit the powers of the office. Here in Colorado, Representative Lauren Boebert openly supported the overturn of the presidential vote.
Griswold has cried wolf when there is no wolf. That doesn’t mean wolves do not exist. We ignore her legitimate concerns about election integrity at our peril.
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.
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