Among the myriad things I never dreamed I’d be doing as a journalist is working to explain how Colorado Republicans, and some local media, have joined the President of the United States in outdoing the Russians in trying to undermine the most critical part of our democracy: elections.
This is all so 2020.
The argument over how accurate mail ballot voting is, and how safe it is from fraud, isn’t new to Colorado.
Wayne Williams, a Republican, left the office of Colorado Secretary of State in 2018 with good marks from Democrats and Republicans alike. A few years before, he bent to the Republican dislike for mail-ballot elections. That’s because mostly non-Republicans tend to be more comfortable with mail ballot voting. Unwisely, Williams launched a series of investigations into whether there was widespread fraud in the mail-ballot system.
There was not. There is not.
“It’s rare because our regulations and laws are designed to prevent it,” Williams said in a 2018 written report to a later national query. In case you forgot, Trump and Congressional Republicans already went down this road in 2018. After drawing unwise and unproven suspicion on the mail-ballot system, Trump came up empty handed when other Republican election officials said mail-ballot voting is as safe or safer in protecting the integrity of an election.
The entire subject became the source of embarrassment for local Republicans who spent plenty of taxpayer dollars pressing allegations that never materialized into charges of fraud.
“This is evidence that voter fraud isn’t epidemic,” Republican Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said way back in 2013 based on then Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s “investigative” debacle.
The nothing-burger stories of the day went the way of Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
That was, until Trump and his cronies could clearly see that the rest of America wants what Colorado has long had: the convenience and safety of voting at the kitchen table. In the middle of a pandemic, few things make more sense than mail-ballot voting.
Trump’s strong suit has never been about making sense.
During the past few weeks, Trump has desperately tried to persuade mainstream America that they should take his factless claims seriously. Without a shred of proof, he has insisted that there has been and will be widespread fraud in mail-ballot counts.
If this sounds like the kind of stuff Russia was leaking into the Facebook accounts of Trump fans four years ago, it is. But these days, the Russians can’t compare to Trump’s energized effort to undermine the election by casting doubt on the mail-ballot process. Trump truly has become the Russian’s MVP in upsetting a free and fair election.
Shockingly, the local CBS affiliate on Channel 4 came to his aid last week. Political reporter Shaun Boyd did an “exclusive” story about the Colorado Secretary of State mailing out postcards inviting “dead people” and “non-citizens” to commit voter fraud and vote. The long “investigation” included interviews with people explaining that “mother” had been dead for four years. The misleading message was clear: Trump’s threats of voter fraud are true.
The real story is that state election officials mass mail postcards to people, advising them that if they’re eligible to vote, please register and do so.
Given the tenor of this election and the public need for clear, accurate and truthful information about mail-ballot voting, it was the journalistic equivalent of malpractice. The misleading story played right into the Trump lies about election fraud and cast aspersions on current Democratic election officials and the state’s election process.
It got worse. Called out for debunked reporting and the clear danger, TV station officials took the story down, and not much more.
“Secretary of State Jena Griswold is trying to clear up any confusion after a story by CBS4 about a voter registration mailing by her office,” was how Boyd and Channel 4 handled what should have been a genuine correction to clear up their confusion, not Griswold’s.
“Retraction” is a word journalists never, ever use lightly. It’s like your doctor talking about amputation. But if ever there were a case to retract a story for being mistaken and outright bogus, it was this one. No retraction.
Instead, Breitbart, that bastion of quality journalism, picked up the now defunct story and ran with it. The president’s son, Don Junior, retweeted it, sending it around the universe of Trumpy misfits, who have apparently made the need for Russian election troll farms superfluous.
And this week, Congressman Ken Buck, who serves as the head of the Colorado GOP, also demanded action.
“Reports that the Colorado Secretary of State’s office mailed voter registration postcards to non-citizens and deceased individuals are deeply concerning,” Buck said in a tweet. “We must get to the bottom of this.”
I think we have.
Buck doubled down on his desperation to fling disinformation by asking federal election officials to look into the matter. Call it, Code to Birtherism.
The official GOP Colorado twitter account posted a similar push toward the debunked story, sealing their fate as co-conspirators to a scheme first cooked up by Russian trolls and then amplified by Trump.
Buck and other GOP officials have seen the writing on the wall of polls tumbling down on Trump and other elected Republican leaders.
In short, the jig is up, folks. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and a handful of other Republicans in the Senate are clearly about to get the boot by voters.
Trump? He may not even win Georgia at this point. Voters want Trump and his herd of cronies out.
So what’s the harm of shaving off a few million votes by either getting exasperated voters to just sit this one out, or, worse yet, get courts to throw away legitimate votes?
On top of the Channel 4 debacle, hundreds of thousands of Colorado residents watched Trump have a meltdown during the first presidential debate over his provable lies about voter fraud.
This? This is what we have to fight for now? Not policy on global warming, conquering the pandemic, racism and health care? Instead, journalists have to focus on dispelling lies and distortions about the election process, simply to protect it.
I expected as much from Trump from the beginning. But the head of the Colorado Republican Party?
Colorado partisan politics was for decades a pointed affair that separated friends, mostly along lines of budget spending or whether to end daylight saving time.
Not any more. Now the voters have to step through a minefield of lies set by prominent Republicans just to get to a ballot and register their voice on the issues that really matter most.
Sorry, folks, but this is the critical issue now. Voice your concerns. Vote.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]