ELECTION-DAY-11032020-KS-096

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 3: Voters place their finished ballots in a locked box inside the Ball Arena on Election Day, November 3, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

The House State, Civic, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Monday killed five GOP bills that sought to reform Colorado’s election infrastructure. 

Included in the package were: 

  • House Bill 21-1086 from Rep. Stephanie Luck, R-Penrose, which would have only allowed voters who could provide proof of citizenship access to a ballot. Luck requested her bill be postponed indefinitely and the committee obliged on a 9-2 vote, the only bipartisan action the panel took during the meeting. 

  • House Bill 21-1088 from Rep. Andy Pico, R-Colorado Springs, a bill that sought to require the state auditor to conduct an annual audit of the statewide voter registration system. Pico’s bill, like the remaining three, was killed by the committee on a party line vote. 

  • House Bill 21-1170 from Rep. Tim Geitner, R-Falcon, which would have created a bipartisan commission made up of outside experts to evaluate the security of electronic election systems and make recommendations to the secretary of State. 

  • House Bill 21-1176 from Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, which sought to create a bipartisan commission to advise the state auditor on standards for a comprehensive audit of the state's election processes.

  • House Bill 21-1053 from Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, which would have allowed registered voters to request an election recount. 

Secretary of State Jena Griswold in a statement celebrated the bills’ defeat. 

“Across the nation, we are seeing a tsunami of legislation to suppress voters and spread the big lie about the 2020 election,” she said. “Although Colorado is considered the nation’s gold standard for elections, there have been bills introduced to undermine confidence and suppress the votes of Coloradans. I applaud the legislators who rejected these types of election-related bills today.”

In a statement ahead of the hearing, Williams said in a statement, "we should always be looking under the hood to improve our system so that all fraud is removed and our citizens have the utmost confidence in our election outcomes."

"These election integrity bills are designed to expand accountability, promote greater transparency, and improve accuracy in our election process," he said. "It’s unfortunate that Democrats are unwilling to work in a bipartisan way to root our any fraud and fine tune our system." 

Though the bills sought to address different issues, much of the testimony on all five – provided over the course of a five-hour hearing by a group of some 10 witnesses roughly evenly split between support and opposition – largely centered on the same issues.  

Opponents of the bills, including a representative from Griswold’s office, said the measure would unnecessarily intrude on an election administration system they and others touted as the “gold standard” in the United States. Backers of the proposal said the legislation would be a first step in restoring the trust in the system they said had been lost. 

"There's no trust because no one's listening and there's no trust because it seems like there's only gaslighting, saying, ‘Nothing's happening, everything's perfect, nothing to see, go away,’ ” witness Carmen Bontrager said while testifying in support of Holtorf’s bill. “We've all taken time out of our afternoons to act on our civil duties and show up to a committee hearing where everyone seems to already have their minds made up, which further erodes trust.” 

Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Lakewood Democrat who serves as the panel’s chair, countered that while he was sympathetic to the loss of confidence and trust, it did not stem from a failure by elections officials or systems but rather “because of the misinformation that was put out into the world around last November's election.”

“I would say voters have lost confidence because their leaders have told them there's a problem here and pointed at something that doesn't actually have a lot of evidence behind it,” he said before calling the vote on Pico’s bill.  

Speaking before the final vote on Williams’ bill, Kennedy placed the blame more directly. 

“Many of us on this committee believe the entire reason we're talking about election fraud is because of a false narrative that was put out there by the 45th president of the United States,” he said. “And we're certainly entitled to all have different opinions about that but those kinds of narratives are the very things that shake the confidence in our election.” 

Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Penrose, shot back that Kennedy’s comments were “inappropriate.” 

“If we are supposed to be exchanging ideas here, labeling me a conspiracy theorist kind of sets me on my heels,” he said. “Rules ought to matter, laws ought to matter and the feelings of the opposition ought to matter and there ought to be some conciliation from whoever the victor is and it's hard to get that if one side is feeling slighted.” 

But Rep. Steven Woodrow, D-Denver, closed by highlighting two areas of common ground he identified during the hearing: the recognition of the importance of voting and the reality that “losing elections stinks.” 

“In these divided times especially, it's hard, I know. In January 2017, I found myself outraged, marching in a sea of pink hats,” Woodrow said. “Respectfully though, if we want to bolster trust and integrity, the place to start is with facts and evidence, and we haven't seen that evidence.” 

Note: This story has been updated to include Williams' comments.

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