Colorado is expected to accredit its political election results soon and also without debate

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Colorado’s election results will be official within a week at the most without the controversies surrounding lawsuits and certification seen in other states.

All but one of the state’s 63 counties certified their election results last week. Gunnison County experienced a delay after elections officials contracted COVID-19 and expects to certify results this week.

The Secretary of State’s Office will certify the statewide results as soon as an automatic recount for district attorney in the 18th Judicial District is completed. That recount began Tuesday and must be completed by Dec. 8 but is expected to finish sooner.

The county canvass boards that certify elections are composed of the county clerk and an equal number of members from the Democratic and Republican parties. In two counties, Jefferson and Boulder, the Republican members refused to sign certification documents, but in 36 other counties contacted by The Colorado Sun no objections were reported. A majority of the board members is required to certify the election results.

The Republican objection in Jefferson County related to a request to audit computer software code even after the county conducted a hand audit of the paper ballots. Two Republican canvass board members refused to certify the results, but the two Democratic members and Democratic Clerk George Stern signed off.

In Boulder County, the one Republican on the canvass board declined to sign the certification. But that isn’t unusual in Boulder County. It’s the ninth time since 2012 that the party’s board member hasn’t certified the election in the heavily Democratic county. The Boulder County clerk’s office said the GOP board member requested additional information under the Colorado Open Records Act — documents the elections staff said fall outside the purview of the canvass board responsibilities.

In Adams County, the Republican Party raised questions similar to those from its counterpart in Jefferson County about Dominion Voting’s software that’s become a focal point for President Donald Trump’s false allegations and attempts to delegitimize the election. But the Republican representative on Adams County’s canvass board signed the election certification.

MORE: To verify the 2020 vote count, Colorado takes one final step: an audit. Here’s how it works.

Many Colorado counties use Dominion software. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr told the Associated Press on Tuesday there was no evidence of fraud nationally that would have changed the election outcome.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office confirmed that it received the official vote abstract from Adams, Boulder and Jefferson counties. The results were “certified by a majority of members of their canvass boards, thus satisfying statutory requirements,” wrote Betsy Hart, a Griswold spokeswoman, in an email. 

The Colorado Republican Party sent a fundraising email Nov. 5, with a false statement about “reports of potential fraud taking place across America,” but this week party spokesman Joe Jackson said “we’ve been clear from the state party on our confidence in the Colorado election system.”

Colorado is one of three states where a risk-limited audit of election results is required by law. That audit took place two weeks ago, with county clerk’s offices comparing randomly selected paper ballots to results determined by computer tabulations of the ballots. Some 95% of Colorado’s vote is recorded on paper ballots, said Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

Election officials process ballots for the 2020 election at the Douglas County clerk’s office in Castle Rock on Oct. 30, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Once the audit is completed, canvass boards meet in each county to certify election results. Those boards consist of the county clerk and an even number of Democrats and Republicans appointed by their county political parties.

The process typically occurs in the background, but clerks are reporting increased complaints from voters connected to the disinformation pushed by Trump about other states. “We still have some voters contacting us wanting the county to not certify the election results or asking us to conduct an audit,” said Peg Perl, the Arapahoe County director of elections. 

Perl said she replies that the county conducted a two-round audit and the canvass board, which participated in the audit, certified the results unanimously last week.

“What people don’t realize is that these are public boards appointed by the parties that are accountable for the election process,” Anderson said. “It’s like a big accounting project. There’s not really a role for politics there. Our experienced canvass board members know that and understand that.”

Anderson served as Jefferson County clerk and recorder for eight years. “As a clerk I didn’t have anyone not sign off on certification. There were times here and there you would have a canvass board member that took a more activist perspective,” she said, referring to those who raised questions outside the scope of their role.

Gunnison County couldn’t certify its election results last week because COVID-19 infections in the clerk’s office prevented the canvass board from meeting. Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion said the office was closed for a week, and she went to the emergency room twice because of the illness. She returned to the reopened office Monday, feeling fatigued.

“It’s quite the experience, Simillion said. “We’re trying to regroup and get everything back together.”

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She said she hoped to convene the canvass board electronically this week.

Once the state certifies the results, the Electoral College electors from Colorado will meet to cast their ballots for Joe Biden, the winner of the state’s presidential election.

The electors and their alternates will meet at the Capitol on Dec. 14 and undergo health screenings and COVID-19 testing, according to Conor Cahill, spokesman for Gov. Jared Polis.

It’s another step in the process that is often overlooked. But in 2016, the electors meeting in Colorado became national news and led to a major court case. 

One of Colorado’s electors tried to cast his vote for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, in an effort to defeat Trump in the Electoral College. The Republican Secretary of State at the time, Wayne Williams, removed that so-called faithless elector and replaced him with an alternate.

The elector sued Williams’ office in a case that ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In July, the court upheld Colorado’s law requiring electors to cast their ballots for the winner of the state’s popular vote.

Ashley Carter and Austin Lammers contributed to this report, working for COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative, and Election SOS, a national program supporting journalists during the 2020 election. COLab is a nonprofit coalition of more than 90 newsrooms across Colorado working together to better serve the public, including The Colorado Sun.

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