EL PASO COUNTY — Since the 2020 presidential election, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman has been fielding an increased number of questions from people concerned about the security of the system.
On Tuesday, ballots started being counted in El Paso County. Around 24,000 were tallied that day. Broerman said the return of ballots has been a bit slower this year.
In approximately the last year, Broerman estimated he has personally spoken with around 1,000 individuals and explained the election process. He said similar skepticism was experienced in 2000 and 2016.
Broerman said there are many reasons for voters to trust the election process is safe, secure, and transparent. "We have layers and layers of security put in place. Every step of the way, we have bipartisan teams that are checking, we have chain of custody for our equipment and ballots so that we only count what is truly, legally qualified to count. We check signatures. We make sure everything balances out... Our election equipment is not connected to the internet in any physical or wireless way. It cannot be hacked by any outside actor," said Broerman.
On Tuesday, Broerman hosted an informational session on the election process for school board candidates. He's done similar presentations over the years for many people, including civic groups, elected officials, and political organizations. "This is the first time it's really, solely, devoted to candidates... There's a lot of interest in school board elections this year. So, I think it was appropriate to help educate them and dispel some of the myths that people have out there regarding elections," explained Broerman.
On the other side of Colorado, Colorado Springs City Councilor and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams has been designated the election official for Mesa County. Williams said he is stepping into the Western Slope role after the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder, Tina Peters, did not follow the requirements of Colorado law and the Secretary of State rule. As a result, Williams said Peters was found unwilling and unable to perform the tasks of an election official. "The clerk and recorder for Mesa County did not deny the allegations of what took place. And so, essentially, admitted those in the lawsuit, and I think that speaks for itself," said Williams.
A Mesa County judge ruled Peters is prohibited from participating in the November election. It comes during criminal investigations into election security breaches involving voting equipment in Mesa County. "The passwords are in Denver in the Secretary of State's office, whereas the actual machine is under control of the local county. And that means that neither one can make changes to that without the other being aware of it... If you capture the passwords, or take other actions with respect to a trusted build of a system, that would enable a single individual to be able to make changes to the software which is not something that Colorado law permits," said Williams.
Williams said he will be serving Mesa County until at least December 17, because a hand count will be conducted to conclude the election process. "In addition to the Dominion paper ballot tabulation, we will run the images through a second system known as Clear Ballot. We will conduct a hand count. And the third one is that we will make all the images of the ballots available to the public so they can see them for themselves. And that is similar to what El Paso County has done with the 2020 election," said Williams.
Williams said one of the benefits of the Colorado election system is that every vote is cast on a paper ballot. "That's critical to ensuring the integrity of an election, is where you have a paper ballot that you can actually trace back to for every vote that is cast in the state... With respect to mail ballots, we check the signature on every single ballot that is returned. If it does not match, it does not count," said Williams.
Regardless of whether the clerk is a democrat or a republican, you have bipartisan election judges, and those are absolutely critical to ensuring the integrity of the process. We also have the ballots under video surveillance, when you take them to the drop box. When they're removed from the drop box it's by a bipartisan team, which puts them in a sealed container. From there, they're taken back to the elections office, the seal is removed, certified that the seal has not been tampered with, and again, by a bipartisan team of judges, who are now under video surveillance, as those ballots are processed and tabulated.
Ballots can no longer be mailed in El Paso County, but can be dropped off at nearly 40 locations throughout the county. Broerman reminded everyone to sign the back of their ballot.