Colorado Republicans and their historic new micro-minorities began the 2023 legislative session by demonstrating that they had learned absolutely nothing from their 2022 election drubbing. The problem is particularly bad in the State House, where GOP lawmakers bring up their opposition to abortion rights at every opportunity — a position that is at odds with the vast majority of Colorado voters — and overthink even simple propositions such as their baffling refusal to co-sponsor a completely benign resolution honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that House Republicans are once again talking about election fraud conspiracies. Last week a joint hearing of the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee went off the rails for Republicans when Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold appeared in front of the committee for her regular SMART Act hearing (State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent Government Act). Republican Reps. Ken DeGraaf and Scott “There is No” Bottoms — both of Colorado Springs — used the opportunity to deliver more than 10 minutes of indecipherable rantings about alleged election fraud.
We’re not exaggerating here. Neither DeGraaf nor Bottoms seemed to have much of a grasp on the theories behind their allegations. DeGraaf was particularly nonsensical; at several points, Griswold would have been completely justified in responding, I literally have no idea what you are saying right now.
You can listen to the exchange yourself, or follow along with our transcription below:
DeGraaf begins his ranting with this line:
DEGRAAF: “Questions are not necessarily conspiracy theories.”
This might have been the only cogent thing that came out of DeGraaf’s mouth. What he did not say, but perhaps should have added, is this: But do all conspiracy theories necessarily require serious questions?
DeGraaf’s opening line is one that Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl often used in 2022 when talking about her concerns about election fraud during the 2020 election. Why can’t we just ask questions? she would say. Of course, this isn’t really about asking questions; Republicans are more interested in making statements and tossing around unsubstantiated allegations.
DEGRAAF: What we’re putting our votes into now is a black box. And it’s a black box – we can’t see the code, and we haven’t seen external audits of the code. It should be a very simple code, as Rep. Baisley said.
Yes, let’s definitely cite Mark Baisley’s rhetoric on election fraud. It was about one year ago that Baisley suggested that Colorado should wrap all voting machines in tin foil in order to
keep out the aliens block wireless signals from altering votes, or something.
Also…what is DeGraaf even suggesting here? If the “black box” was made of a more transparent material, does he think we could see the “code” streaming down the screen like we were in “The Matrix”?
DEGRAAF: Some of the things that cause doubt is when we look at the election results and they are, uh…uh…[long pause]…from the, uh, the people who look at data, they’re basically organically impossible.
“They’re basically organically impossible.” Sure, whatever.
DEGRAAF: And…and…and then denial. I appreciate you bringing up paper ballots, because that is, of course, why we have paper ballots to be the final arbiter of this. But also, in El Paso County, they were unable to access the paper ballots. And that was through the former Secretary of State, and that was through the current Republican Chairman, who somehow got 5% more votes than anybody in his, which causes questions in how to do that in a very limited race, in one county, getting 5% more votes for the…by the person who was in charge of printing the ballots, on a sole-source contract with somebody who was also on the board of direc…of, uh, the county chair.
We would love to explain this, but we honestly have no idea where to even begin. The best we can come up with is that someone in El Paso County, possibly the Republican County Chairperson, received 5% more of the vote because that person was in charge of printing ballots for something.
DEGRAAF: These are things that cause issues, and they are not allowed to do a paper recount.
I do understand the risk-limiting audit, but the CRS specifies that you’re also supposed to look at a section of verified voter ballots. I don’t think there’s really any question that the machines can count the ballots, but there’s always the matter of whether the machines counted it correctly.
But if people count paper ballots, there is zero chance that they will make a mistake. Humans don’t make errors — only machines.
There’s also the matter of whether or not the machines can turn into robots like a Transformer. We should be asking this: Are voting machines Autobots or Decepticons?
One more note: DeGraaf is referring to “Colorado Revised Statutes” when he says “the CRS.” Yes, it’s weird. No, we can’t say we’ve ever heard a legislator talk about state statutes as “the CRS.”
DEGRAAF: So, my understanding of the voter-verified ballots is that you would take a slice, and hand count those ballots, and actually compare it. If you do it [in] just a randomized section and say, ‘we’ve selected 1,000 ballots and then we counted to see if they count correctly,’ that really doesn’t tell you…that really doesn’t tell you anything.
A random sample doesn’t tell you anything? There are a lot of statisticians and scientists who will be sad to learn about this.
DEGRAAF: And the only thing that we were allowed to look at in El Paso County was, what do you call it, the digital image. The digital image is not even recognized in the CRS.
We can all agree that there is no chance whatsoever that Ken DeGraaf has any idea what it means when he refers to “the digital image.” None.
DEGRAAF: Your rules were actually in violation of the CRS. And so when the rules appear to be in violation of the CRS, and that the people that are asking for a recount can’t get a recount.
Um, there were a handful of recounts in 2022 alone. There was a nationally-publicized recount, in fact, in CO-03, in which Republican Lauren Boebert won re-election by 546 votes over Democrat Adam Frisch. This was only like six weeks ago.
DEGRAAF: …and, uh…you know…those are not conspiracies. Those are just…those are…those are outright obstructions. In El Paso County, it was fought all the way to the Supreme Court by at least five people, as you know.
At least five people? Then it must be true.
After listening to DeGraaf ramble on about nothing for several minutes, Committee Chair Steven Woodrow starts getting irritated:
WOODROW: Representative DeGraaf, do you have a question?
WOODROW: Okay, then please ask it, sir.
DEGRAAF: [nervous laughter] Well, I want to know…this goes to the uh…where you’re…how are we going to…if you want to make these things safe, and trusted, this whole system needs to be transparent. And it…it doesn’t…you have lots of things, and it’s not transparent at all and that’s why people don’t trust it. I highly…I think we need to get to a point where it’s trusted. I think you also need to listen to the people as to why it’s not trusted.
That was not a question.
There are definitely some people, most of them right-wing Republicans, who don’t “trust” our election system. But the primary reason they don’t trust our elections is because people like DeGraaf, who have NO GODDAMNED IDEA HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS, keep telling them not to trust the system.
Secretary of State Griswold is now given an opportunity to respond:
GRISWOLD: Our elections are transparent. They’re safe and secure. And we’re happy to do a briefing with you at any point. There’s bipartisan oversight. There is a reason Colorado is commended for our election system. Our current election system was predominantly set up by Republicans, including Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams. There’s bipartisan support for many of those reforms, including by Republican county clerks. As you know there are more Republican county clerks in Colorado than Democratic county clerks.
In terms of some of the issues you brought up, you can do a recount in the State of Colorado. We had the first recount in 20 years in the State of Colorado last election – fueled by conspiracy theories – which reaffirmed, again, that the election outcome was correct. [POLS NOTE: This was the recount for the Republican race for Secretary of State]
There was litigation based on conspiracy theories, and the conspiracy theorists lost. When audits are done, they are pulling paper ballots.
Griswold adds that the rules that the SOS office operates under are vetted for legality and constitutionality by the Colorado Attorney General’s office. In other words, the SOS does not unilaterally make decisions about election procedures.
GRISWOLD: We are happy to provide you with any information, but again, there is a difference between fact and fiction. We are based on fact, and we will continue to push out facts, and I hope you’ll join us in making sure that Coloradans have the correct information about election processes in our state.
Perhaps feeling left out, Rep. Scott Bottoms now decides it is his turn to show off his stupidity. It is indeed impressive; he claims that “many other groups, including entire states, have found the machines that we used to be ‘so broken, and so corruptible, and so hackable’ that they have made it illegal to use those machines within their states.
BOTTOMS: But somehow, magically, our state uses the same machines with no hackability, no problems.
Is “hackability” a word? If not, it should be.
BOTTOMS: So you said that there was videos made of people that were bragging on the gold standard. The dozens of people that came to me and said – these were people auditing the elections and watching the elections – they came to me and said there were problems. I told them to call your office, but none of those people ended up in the videos.
This paragraph alone speaks volumes. Bottoms is apparently mad that people who claimed they witnessed election fraud were not featured in some sort of video about Colorado’s election systems.
Why does this matter? It doesn’t.
BOTTOMS: How many times do you break the CRS rules and then say, ‘that’s just the way that it’s supposed to be?’ How do you answer breaking CRS?
Why you break the CRS?
Woodrow jumps in again here, for obvious reasons:
WOODROW: I just want to remind all the members of the committee that we’re not here to disparage any of the witnesses or accuse them of breaking Colorado law. To the extent that you have questions, you are more than free to ask them.
BOTTOMS: My question to that, sir, I’m addressing what she said. Not what I said first. She brought this up first. Thank you.
I’m not the question — YOU’RE the question!
This is so dumb, but these are actual elected Republican members of the state legislature.
GRISWOLD: The Colorado Secretary of State’s office follows all Colorado law and the Colorado State Constitution, and the allegations that you are making are untrue.
WOODROW: Are there any further questions? Rep. DeGraaf?
Okay, prepare yourself for DeGraaf’s masterpiece. And by “masterpiece” we mean “unintelligible gibberish.”
DEGRAAF: Yes, maam, thank you…whatever the protocol is. Again, in deference to the Secretary of State’s rules, the El Paso County Clerk, a Republican, cited the county clerk and recorder citing CRS 1-1-110, er, 1…the county clerk and recorder followed the rules promulgated by the Colorado Secretary of State pursuant to this code. ‘Pursuant’ means ‘accordance with.’ So that means the current clerk must follow the Secretary of State’s rules in accordance with the CRS, but it is not required to follow a rule if it is not in accordance with the CRS.
One of the rules I’m thinking about specifically is, uh, the uh risk limiting audit. And the way the audit is supposed to be done is that it is supposed to be done via a snapshot. Again, it’s not a matter of whether or not the machine can count ballots correctly. It’s a matter of whether the machines or the computer reported the results correctly.
And that can only be done with a hand count. And in El Paso County that would be a hand count of the paper ballots, which are the voter-verified paper ballots, which was denied. And then when it went to the court – I don’t know if those were the court proceedings you were talking about – but each court denied even viewing…uh, even viewing uh…even viewing the evidence. So it continued to go up, and I guess now it’s more of a civil rights aspect, now, for being denied due process.
These rules were put in place, and I’m fine with it, but your…what your risk-limiting audit…it seems like more of a limited risk of…is not actually addressing the CRS. The CRS means that it needs…because ultimately, these voting systems are your highest…are your highest-value military targets in the, in the entire country. Because they determine who determines the outcome of power and money.
So they have obviously, and you have alluded to that, with all of this stuff, and when I look at it and say, ‘okay, these things…when the election judges are going back and forth and there isn’t, say, USB ports. USB and changing data. And USB ports were discontinued by the Department of Defense years ago when I was flying in [unintelligible] because they were all found to be embedded with malware. And then we’re supposed to trust that system.
Well, now my conspiracy theory goes all the way back to the military…uh…when there are, uh, wireless devices that have to be disconnected…you can’t turn off a wireless device. You can only mechanically disconnect. When I stood up a top secret vault, I couldn’t have a computer with no WiFi within several feet of an actual phone line because that was hackable. And now you have these…you have these machines that have multiple ports. You talked about whistleblower protection but your office, uh, uh, just, well, prosecuted Tina Peters for doing her corrup…doing her actual job. And then reporting on this…
Sigh. It was inevitable that we would end up talking about former Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters at some point. But before we move on to Peters, take a moment to reflect on the paragraphs above. At no point could you argue that DeGraaf has even a modest understanding of this subject…or any subject, really.
DeGraaf literally argues that election fraud conspiracy theorists were denied “due process” because the courts rejected their nonsense ramblings. The United States legal system is not obligated to do whatever you tell them you want to happen. That’s not how courts work. That’s not how elections work. That’s not how ANY of this works.
WOODROW: Rep. DeGraaf, do you have a question, sir?
DEGRAAF: Yes! I want to know…
WOODROW: Then please ask it, sir…
DEGRAAF: Why are you…why are you being inconsistent in whistleblower protection when, say, Tina Peters comes to you and says, ‘I think there’s a lot of errors, and we found a lot of errors.’ And then it becomes…uhhhh…where she’s just basically run into the ground.
Tina Peters is a whistleblower now? Oh, come on…
Griswold does a good job here of rejecting all of DeGraaf’s arguments, which is impressive considering that we barely understood most of what DeGraaf was even saying:
GRISWOLD: That was a lot. I will try to touch base on many of those things. First off, when we do audits in the state of Colorado, paper ballots ARE pulled and checked against tabulation. That is how it is conducted. By humans. By bipartisan election judges. By Republicans paired with Democrats.
Second, if a court is ruling over and over against your assertion, then our rules are probably okay. That’s how the legal system works in the United States.
Third, in terms of USBs, we do not allow USBs that can be bought at CVS or Walgreens to be plugged into any type of election system in the State of Colorado.
Fourth, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State’s office is not a prosecutor. I do not prosecute Tina Peters. I oversee the Colorado elections system, and I ensure that every Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated [voter] can vote in free, fair, and safe elections.
Tina Peters is not someone to be commended. She allowed unauthorized access to Mesa County’s voting equipment, putting in breach the voting equipment in Mesa County. Putting in breach the ability for residents in Mesa County to have free and fair elections. She is facing seven counts of felony [charges], not brought by me, but brought by a Republican prosecutor – a Republican District Attorney.
Griswold concludes by saying that she welcomes any “reasonable suggestions” for how to increase transparency and ensure election security in Colorado.
This entire fiasco is another example of how Republicans just keep digging themselves deeper and deeper holes with Colorado voters. The election conspiracy nonsense isn’t new, but what is different now is that we have a fresh generation of GOP lawmakers who quite obviously can’t even articulate their own conspiracy theories.
The de-evolution of the Colorado Republican Party continues.
But, can Jena prove that Italian military satellites did not change my votes?
And, what about Jewish Space Lasers? Jared Polis is Jewish; so what does he do when he gets turn at the laser controls?
I am reminded of a quote by Mr. Garrison from South Park – " There are no stupid questions, just stupid people."
I thought the quote was going to be – "You go to Hell! You go to Hell, you die!"
Play stupid games, get stupid prizes (like a super-minority in the Colorado legislature)
I was reminded of the scene in Zoolander where Hansel realized "the files are in the computer," and he throws the computer off a balcony so the files would come out when it smashes against the floor.
Rep. DeGraaf is already noted for:
1) His absolutely ultra-religous right wing nomination of his bud Scott Bottoms to be Speaker of the House. Bottoms had been in the legislature probably less than 1/2 hour when this nomination was made.
2) His bill HB23-1044 which is crazy pro-gun rights to the extreme (i.e., in essence, “We in the Colorado General Assembly will decide on how the 2nd amendment is interpreted” and we’ll fine the bejeesus out of any community that goes outside of our dictates.”)
I'm pretty sure that the ammosexual community does NOT want the Colorado General Assembly defining the Second Amendment – at least not as long as it is comprised of Democratic super-majorities (or near super-majorities).
Better to place that issue squarely in the hands of those nine unelected politicians who wear black dresses and work in Washington.
I see that Ken (aka "Skin") DeGraaf claims to have obtained a Guggenheim Fellowship in connection with his attendance at Columbia University. The comprehensive list of prior Fellowships on the Guggenheim Foundation's website can be searched in vain for his name. Maybe he obtained it under an "alternative" name, like Devolder, maybe?
I was wondering the same thing. Did he attend with George Santos? They can vouch for one another.
Wasn't that the year they both helped pull ten trapped children out of a burning building, after running the NYC marathon?
They're all taking cues from Santos now, or whatever his name is today…