Declaring she will “stand up against the Trump Administration, and protect Coloradans’ right to vote,” Democrat Jena Griswold on Wednesday launched her campaign for Colorado secretary of state with attacks on a White House commission devoted to examining voter fraud.
“As Secretary of State, I will ensure that Colorado continues to have the most secure and accessible elections in the nation,” Griswold said in a statement. “I am disturbed to see that because of Trump’s sham Election Commission, hundreds of Coloradans withdrew their voter registrations.”
President Donald Trump established the Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in May to examine vulnerabilities in election systems “that could lead to improper voter registrations, improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.” Kobach ignited a firestorm of controversy when he sent letters to secretaries of state across the country asking for voter data.
Colorado’s Republican incumbent, Secretary of State Wayne Williams, has said he’ll comply with the commission’s requests for publicly available voter data, although he has stressed he won’t provide any information considered confidential under Colorado law, such as Social Security numbers or exact birthdates. Earlier this week, the commission asked state election officials to put the request for that data on hold, however, until a lawsuit challenging the commission’s operations is settled.
“This Commission is simply a pretext to spread the Trump Administration’s deceptions about the integrity of our elections and represents an effort to weaken our voting rights,” continued Griswold. “As Secretary of State, I will demand that the federal government respects Coloradans’ constitutional right to vote and our rights to privacy. I will ensure that every Coloradan can exercise his or her constitutional right to vote, enhance our elections’ cyber security, increase campaign finance transparency, and make government easier for Coloradans.”
Griswold, 32, an attorney, was a member of the Obama campaign’s 2012 voter protection team. She was tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper to open and run an office representing the state of Colorado in Washington, D.C. Last year, she returned to Colorado to work as an advisor at the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She currently operates the Denver-based government relations firm Griswold Strategies.
“Jena plans to build a more transparent government by making it easier to see big money’s role in our elections and by supporting a law to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns to get on the Colorado ballot,” her campaign said, referring to failed legislation sponsored this year by Democrats. “She will also make the Secretary of State’s Office a resource center for new businesses and entrepreneurs.”
Williams responded to Griswold’s attack with a statement, noting that he’s worked with legislators from both parties and has the support of Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated county clerks.
“For the past three years I have worked tirelessly to ensure that Coloradans have the ability to vote and that their votes are counted accurately and with integrity,” Williams told Colorado Politics. “Colorado’s new model of verifiable paper ballots and scientifically based result audits have been praised as the model. And we have consistently followed Colorado law. That’s why our governor and other elected officials of both parties expressed confidence in Colorado’s 2016 election.”
Griswold unveiled endorsements from more than 20 prominent Democrats, including House Majority Leader K.C. Becker, D-Boulder, and former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel.
Another Democrat, Phillip Villard, has filed to run for secretary of state in next year’s election. Williams, a former El Paso County clerk and recorder, filed to run for a second term, although until recently he was also considered a potential candidate for governor in next year’s election. He told Colorado Politics he’s seeking reelection .
Colorado hasn’t elected a Democrat secretary of state in decades. Former state lawmaker Bernie Buescher was appointed to the office and served for two years, from 2009-2011, after the GOP incumbent, Mike Coffman, won election to Congress. Buescher was defeated in his bid for a full term by Republican Scott Gessler, who declined to seek a second term in 2014 and instead mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor.
This story has been updated to include comment from Secretary of State Wayne Williams and to clarify that he is running for reelection.