Murib: How to fight voter intimidation this election season
Conspiracy theory politics have come to Eagle County. Unaffiliated voters recently received a text message from the Eagle County Republicans urging them to only vote on Election Day and not participate in Colorado’s mail ballot system, a recommendation that both Democratic and Republican election officials disagree with.
The text message mimics recommendations from the Colorado-based prominent election conspiracy group FEC United, which is headed by Joe Oltmann. Oltmann is known for references to hanging political opponents and for FEC United’s affiliated and heavily armed private army group, the United American Defense Force. FEC United and this private army group spreads conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen, and is organizing “ballot box watching” events to intimidate voters using frightening tactics. Oltmann also encourages his members to mistrust Colorado’s mail-ballot voting system by imploring voters to only vote on Election Day.
Despite this, the Eagle County Republican Chair, Tony Martinez, seemed surprised that his organization came off as “conspiracy theorists” when questioned by The Denver Post about the misleading text messages that echo Oltmann’s instructions to mistrust the state’s mail-in ballot system. This tactic verges on misinformation at best and voter disenfranchisement at worst.
As a former member of the Colorado Secretary of State’s executive team, I was privileged to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our elections and expand ballot access safely. From mailing your ballot back in, submitting it in a drop box, or voting in-person at a voter service and polling center, Democratic and Republican election officials agree that Colorado has one of the safest and most accessible voting systems in the country.
Conspiracy theory politics are hardly representative of voters in the valley. Chances are that you like and trust the convenience of Colorado’s voter system no matter your political party. Even then, it’s not unfair to wonder how the state is safeguarding our vote.
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Colorado’s voter registration verification system guarantees that voters only vote once in each election. Bipartisan election officials and judges test voting equipment, conduct vigorous audits to ensure that results are tabulated accurately, and they verify signatures on ballot envelopes by comparing them against recent signatures the state has on file.
Colorado voters can even track their ballot, allowing them to follow their ballot from mailing to counting. These processes are open to the public and have received national accolades. Colorado has also joined the Election Registration Information Center, which helps states collaborate to ensure that voters are only voting in one state.
Colorado’s voting system is designed from the ground up to prevent fraud. Former U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, appointed by former President Trump, even said in February 2021 that “anyone questioning results in Colorado is not being honest with the public.”
The Eagle County Republicans’ text message isn’t a helpful suggestion: it’s an anti-democratic tactic rooted in conspiracy theories with the intention of suppressing the vote and confusing voters. Meanwhile, Oltmann’s “ballot box watching” events encourage members to “be unpredictable; show up frequently,” and to point headlights at ballot drop boxes. These types of voter intimidation tactics are the actual threat to our elections, not the state’s mail ballot system.
Here’s how to fight voter intimidation this election season: if you see something, say something. Election watchers aren’t allowed to interfere with anyone casting their ballot. Voter intimidation is against the law, and so is carrying a gun within 100 feet of a drop box, voting center, or ballot processing center. If you suspect voter intimidation, call local law enforcement.
We owe our gratitude to the bipartisan stewards of our democracy, and it’s in our power as Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters to choose facts over conspiracies.