As readers know, Sen. Cory Gardner is generally reported by the press as being “in support” of Colorado’s mail ballot system. It would be weird if he wasn’t, since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in a mail ballot election in 2014, and Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams has become a leading advocate for mail ballots after presiding over the system through two general election cycles.
But like we discovered when we were sent a clip from Gardner on a local right-wing podcast disparaging the very same expanded unemployment benefits he claims in defiance of his party he supports, Cory Gardner says something very different about mail ballots in the private company of fellow Republicans. Westword’s Michael Roberts yesterday:
During recent interviews, Gardner has said positive things about the way Colorado has conducted mail-in voting, and he did so again, more or less, during a forum not meant for public consumption: an August 5 telephone fundraiser. But in a transcript from the event obtained by Westword, he also sought to cast doubts on a nationwide application of the process amid the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that should keep The Donald happy, since his references to heavy-handedness coming out of “Washington, D.C.” are explicitly aimed at Congress…
“Look, protecting the integrity of our elections is job number one when it comes to carrying out free, transparent, secure elections, which we have to have. We know what’s happened in California, where they have voter harvesting laws that allow people weeks and weeks and weeks after the election to change the result of the election. We saw what happened in Florida while the Supreme Court of Florida actually found that state officials had acted unconstitutionally in the way that they were carrying out that election. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in Colorado. I’m proud of the way that we have carried out our election, but we have to make sure that Washington, D.C., it doesn’t impose some kind of California or Florida style voting regime that impedes the protections of our elections across the country.”
Gardner added: “When Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were arguing about what we should do to make sure we have a strong constitution, the last thing on their minds was if they could tell Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming how they were supposed to vote and the way they were going to carry out their elections. That’s not what this country was founded on. Washington, D.C., needs to stay away from running our elections…”
Folks, this answer is sufficiently ridiculous that it really needs more public scrutiny than we or even Westword can afford it. Gardner’s absurd claim that “vote harvesting” allows people to “change the result weeks and weeks after the election” is a nonsensical retcon of the simple fact that in the 2018 elections in California, a lot of returned ballots took a long time for some areas of the state to count. In Colorado, any voter can drop off up to ten ballots. In California there’s no limit–but since the ballots are all individually signed and sealed by the voters, it doesn’t matter who drops them off.
We’re not sure what specifically Gardner is referring to in Florida, be it the battle over felony disenfranchisement (we hope not) or litigation over absentee ballots expected to be widely requested there for the November elections. But it doesn’t change the bottom line: no one is seeking to “impose” mail ballots on any state that doesn’t want them, and mail ballots are nothing to be afraid of. This entire business about instilling fear in voters about mail ballots has no factual basis whatsoever, and Cory Gardner knows that based on his own state’s experience. But Gardner can’t tell the GOP base the truth about mail ballots while Donald Trump is busy declaring mail ballots to be the greatest extant threat to American democracy.
As a result, the stuff coming out of Gardner’s mouth to pacify his base is getting more and more ridiculous.