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El Paso clerk cites ‘blatantly false’ claims as recount group turns to lawsuits

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El Paso clerk cites ‘blatantly false’ claims as recount group turns to lawsuits

Aug 01, 2022 | 11:27 am ET
By Quentin Young
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El Paso clerk cites ‘blatantly false’ claims as recount group turns to lawsuits
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Members of the Colorado Recount Coalition participate in a panel discussion at Fervent Church in Colorado Springs on July 31, 2022. The candidates are, from left, Summer Groubert, Todd Watkins, Lindsay Moore, David Winney, Lynda Zamora Wilson, Peter Lupia and Rae Ann Weber. (Screenshot from Conservative Daily)

The clerk and recorder of El Paso County on Sunday shot down allegations from a group of Republican candidates who lost the Colorado primary election but claimed it was fraudulent and now claim a recount of the election is flawed.

The candidates are part of Colorado Recount Coalition, which includes Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, an election denier who lost her bid for secretary of state in the June 28 GOP primary. Peters and several other candidates in the group secured recounts of their elections after paying a fee to election authorities.

Seven of the candidates, all running for local or state offices in El Paso County, filed a lawsuit late last week in El Paso District Court against Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, and El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman, a Republican. The lawsuit claims that for each of the candidates about half the fee they were required to pay was for a purpose that was “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious.”

Over the weekend, they asserted that a test of election machines in El Paso demonstrated serious problems before the actual recount even began. The test, called a “logic and accuracy test,” is standard and ensures that optical scanners and other voting hardware functions properly and tabulates votes accurately. Election officials used a stack of test ballots — 4,200 of them — and the machines reportedly identified about half to be sent on for human inspection, a process called adjudication. Adjudication is often useful, for example, in the case of undervotes, when a voter chooses a candidate in one race but appears to leave other races blank. Election judges are routinely called on to ensure a ballot is tallied the way the voter intended.

“They give them 100% success rating, when they were an abject failure in the logic and accuracy test, spitting out 54% adjudication requirement,” said Jim Wiley, a Peters ally and Colorado Recount Coalition organizer.

Broerman, however, said that what the recount advocates called an egregious error rate was actually proof of reliability.

“The machines are doing exactly as they’re designed to do, exactly as they’re instructed to do in a recount, is to have human eyeballs,” he said. “But unfortunately, there’s falsehoods coming out of the Tina Peters campaign alleging something that’s not true, and casting aspersions on the conduct of a recount that is just blatantly false.”

During the test, the elections system “did not have a single error. We came out 100 percent perfect. Operated flawlessly,” Broerman said.

Peter Lupia, a Recount Coalition member who lost the GOP primary race for El Paso County clerk, during a panel discussion with coalition candidates Sunday evening at Fervent Church in Colorado Springs affirmed that the machines functioned properly, and he accurately described the logic and accuracy test process for the audience. But he faulted election staff management.

“I’m not defending what they’re doing in any way shape or form, understand that. But what happened was what was supposed to happen, it just happened on a much greater magnitude than it was supposed to and it again caught them off guard,” he said. “Fubar.”

Threat of further lawsuits

The recount began Sunday, and the deadline to complete it is Thursday. While Peters’ recount is a statewide effort, El Paso is the only county with multiple recounts, and as of last year it is the state’s largest county by population, Broerman said.

Peters, who has advanced election conspiracy theories, is facing a grand jury indictment on felony and misdemeanor charges for her involvement in a security breach in her county’s election office during a routine secure software update last year. Though she is the Mesa County clerk, a judge barred her from overseeing elections.

Broerman said Peters exhibits a lack of knowledge about the elections facet of the job of county clerk.

“If Tina Peters understood and knew elections, she would know what a logic and accuracy test does, she would know how long and how extensive and robust a logic and accuracy test is,” he said. “Because she doesn’t know her job, she demonstrates once again her ignorance on election issues.”

Election watchers are allowed to observe the logic and accuracy test, but they must be authorized. This requirement was news to Peters, according to Broerman.

“She didn’t know that she had to have a watcher form for watchers,” he said. “I mean, that’s incredible. How would you not as a clerk and recorder know that when someone comes in to watch an election, that you have to have a form signed by the candidate or the party authorizing them to do so? Time and time again, myself and other clerks find stuff that she just doesn’t know about.”

Three of the candidates in the lawsuit paid their recount fee, about $21,000 each. They were Lupia; Rae Ann Weber, running for El Paso County coroner; and Lynda Zamora Wilson, running for state Senate District 9. Four of the candidates were unable to pay the full fee. They were Lindsay Moore and David Winney, both running for El Paso County commissioner; Summer Groubert, running for state House District 18; and Todd Watkins, running for El Paso County sheriff.

The candidates argue in the lawsuit that $10,000 of their recount fee was for “vendor programming and support,” and they say the “need for such services is unnecessary and over-estimated.” This portion of the fee, the suit suggests, “may already be covered by the normal operating costs of government,” and passing it on to the candidates is “cost prohibitive.”

Coalition members intimated that they’re preparing more litigation. Lupia referred to the litigation over costs as “lawsuit No. 1.” The far-right outlet Gateway Pundit reported Saturday that the members planned to sue to get the “sheriff” to “detain” voting machines to conduct “a forensic audit.”

Wiley said the Gateway Pundit story was inaccurate, but he didn’t rule out further litigation. Peters and other coalition candidates say they don’t trust the Dominion Voting Systems machines that are used in 62 of Colorado’s 64 counties, including El Paso, and had sought a hand recount.

“When systems used to violate the rights of the American people, if you use it again it is likely to violate their rights again … The ongoing violation of the rights of the people of America must stop immediately,” Wiley said, adding that the team sent a letter to election officials to stop the machine recount process. “And there might be more things in the future to try to accomplish that goal.”

Asked if this would include litigation, Wiley said, “Possibly. I think it’s clear that the law is being violated.”

The recount is part of a larger pattern of “election integrity” activism in Colorado that began with “stop the steal” demonstrations shortly after the 2020 presidential election. Some of the most prominent figures in that effort are involved in the El Paso recount effort, Broerman said. They include Shawn Smith, a Colorado Springs-based insurrectionist who helps lead Cause of America, an election-integrity nonprofit funded my MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell; Mark Cook, a Colorado IT professional who, along with Smith, helped Republican Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder make copies of election system computers; and Ashe Epp, co-founder of Colorado-based election integrity group U.S. Election Integrity Plan.