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Sean Franey drops off his ballot at the Denver Elections Division while election worker Sophie Schwartz waits in a patriotically decorated golf cart on Election Day in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 3. 2020. Schwartz was handing out stickers to voters and giving people rides in they wanted to in-person vote. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Boulder County Republicans allege they're not getting a fair look at ballots being examined as part of a route audit of the Nov. 3 election.

The complaint mirrors those in battleground states where President Trump is trying to overturn his loss.

In Boulder County, Democrat Joe Biden prevailed nearly 4 to 1 in unofficial returns. Statewide, the Democratic nominee won by 13.5 percentage points, or 439,719 votes, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

The public is allowed to watch the risk-limiting audit of votes, but the local GOP office complained "multiple failures," including poor sound and blurry video made it difficult for watchers to match seal numbers to corresponding boxes of ballots, as well as allowing a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to be an election judge.

A spokeswoman for Clerk and Recorder Molly Fitzpatrick said Tuesday morning that the allegations "have no merit." 

"Understanding the decision to conduct the RLA remotely must not lead to any reduction in transparency, our staff reviewed the audit process from every angle possible to confirm that we would be able to perform every step of the audit in a way that does not sacrifice public oversight," Mircalla Wozniak elaborated. "Our office could not identify a single instance in which oversight and observation would be compromised. As a matter of fact, this process allows more oversight and is more inclusive of individuals who might have underlying health conditions or for people with disabilities."

As for the person with the virus, the elections office didn't find out about the diagnosis until four days later, and the judge showed no symptoms on the job, she said.

"We have not had an outbreak and continue to adhere to safety precautions to ensure that we do not have an outbreak," Wozniak said in an email.

The Colorado Secretary of State's Office, as of Wednesday, had not received a formal complaint from Boulder or any other county.

"We have comprehensive rules for the counties on conducting a risk limiting audit that are applicable when social distancing guidelines are required and when they are not," said Secretary of State Jena Griswold. "No formal complaints have been filed with us. We are unaware of any failures to comply with the rules."

The Boulder County party, in a press release, acknowledged that COVID-19 restrictions as the "rationale for preventing citizen election judges from critical on-site completion of RLA." 

The release said a remote audit board team declined to certify the results because of "overwhelming obstacles of independently verifying what the county clerk staff was presenting" and nonetheless "clerk staff verbally urged them to proceed on."

“We believe that our citizens are the backbone of our Democracy," Boulder County Republican Party chair Theresa Watson said in a statement. “Our election integrity falls on each one of us to be involved and and trust of voters in our citizen election process is informed. Molly Fitzpatrick’s assault on the confidence not acceptable."

The state-required audit includes a hand count of randomly selected ballots to test the statistical reliability of the outcome to ensure public confidence.

The Trump campaign has questioned his loss in key states to overcome his Electoral College vote of 306 to 232, the same margin Trump won by four years ago. He was routed in the national popular vote by almost 6 million votes.

The president has said mail ballots are a source of fraud. The Colorado General Assembly passed all-mail elections in 2013, over GOP opposition, but the voting method has not faced any attempt to repeal it since.

In an email to a party activist working on the potential for voter fraud in Colorado, Vickie Tonkins, chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, said she was not aware of any problems there.

"Fortunately for us, we did not have these types of issues in El Paso County," she wrote in an email Tuesday to the local activist on party letterhead. "I have individuals who are looking into our voting here and as of today we are not in the threshold that shows voter fraud. We will continue to check on this and if anything arises, I will let you know. Things that did come up, such as poll watcher access, were dealt with speedily and corrected."

The Boulder County clerk's officer described a tense situation with the local minority party.

"Over the last two years we have done our best to demonstrate goodwill with the local Boulder County Republican Party leadership," Wozniak said. "In fact, we worked with them over the summer after the June primary election to significantly revise our signature verification process based on their feedback. We held a presentation to review changes with them, shifted our staff resources, sent them copies of materials in advance and responded to all emails they sent to address concerns.

"At the time, they said they welcomed the changes and appreciated them. Two months later in the middle of the general election, the chairwoman said she opposed the changes we made. We also only hired Republican election judges for signature verification that were hand-selected by the chair of the Boulder County Republican Party despite this not being required by statute or rule."

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