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Colorado's top elections official seeks security protection amid threats

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks from a podium outdoors in downtown Denver.
David Zalubowski
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks during a news conference about the the state's efforts to protect the process of casting a vote in the upcoming general election Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in downtown Denver.

Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state is asking lawmakers for $200,000 annually for guards and other security-related measures after receiving escalating threats over her advocacy of elections security.

Jena Griswold has consistently debunked claims, both locally and on national media, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. She's also sued a Republican county clerk in western Colorado who is under federal investigation for allegedly breaching security protocols involving voting machines and has become a leading elections conspiracy figure popular with the right.

With the online threats escalating, Griswold's office is seeking $200,000 annually from the Legislature to “address election-related concerns” from the threats. The funds would pay for a vendor to track threats on social media and for guards for Griswold and some staff at public events, The Colorado Sun reported Wednesday.

Griswold and local elections officials across the country have faced escalating harassment and threats in the aftermath of the 2020 election, which then-President Donald Trump and supporters contend was stolen by Democrat Joe Biden. No evidence of tampering has been found, and a flurry of lawsuits by Trump and his supporters challenging the result were tossed out of court.

“Like other agencies responsible for carrying out elections across the country, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office has experienced an unprecedented spike in threats toward the secretary of state and the office,” said Griswold spokesperson Annie Orloff. “Election administrators and workers have been the target of harassment, vitriol and violent threats.”

Griswold’s office says the threats have hurt hiring and retention of trained staff to administer elections. Her personal information has been posted online, the office says.

Lawmakers who serve on the Joint Budget Committee, which will write the fiscal year 2022-23 budget when the legislature convenes next year, said they were open to the request.

“I can certainly see some need here,” said Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat. “We all saw an explosion of this kind of (threat) activity.”

Democratic Sen. Dominick Moreno said the security request may be addressed through the State Patrol, which is seeking increased funding for a team that provides security for Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and the state Capitol.

Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission this year denied an offer by the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, which Griswold chairs, to provide private security for Griswold. The commission found that the state Constitution bans gifts from the group, a political action committee for electing Democrats.

Republican Wayne Williams, Griswold’s predecessor as secretary of state, said he and his staff received threats during his tenure but “nothing to the point that I thought it necessary to seek funding for security.”

But Williams said he knows election officials and workers have been subjected to more vitriol in recent years. He said that’s part of the reason why he agreed to serve on the advisory board for the Election Official Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit that provides lawyers for elections officials facing harassment.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.