DENVER — A bill to bolster security around Colorado’s election passed the House Wednesday night after several hours of debate.
Senate Bill 22-153also known as the Internal Election Security Measures Bill, seeks to prevent internal attacks on the state’s electoral system.
Here is a quick overview of what the bill would do:
- Require clerks and registry employees, election officials, and others to complete a certification course on topics such as election law, risk-mitigating audits, and election security within a specified time frame.
- Prohibit someone from serving as an election official if they have been convicted of an election offense or other crimes such as sedition or treason.
- Puts more parameters around who can have access to voting machines and how the machines should be stored.
- Requires 24/7 monitoring of voting machines year-round and stipulates that images must be stored for 25 months.
- Prohibits the imaging of hard drives without written permission from the state.
- Offers money to the state and counties to assess potential election risks.
- Stipulates that anyone who tampers with or facilitates unauthorized access to electronic voting machines is guilty of a class 5 felony.
- Requires the use of electronic voting equipment in most cases and limits the use of manual counting.
- Establishes rules on what would happen if a county did not certify a summary of its votes by the deadline.
Many parts of the bill are a direct response to actions allegedly taken by Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters.
“We want to make sure people have comfort knowing their vote was counted and it matters,” said Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, referring to the Mesa County allegations. “We cannot allow this to continue or happen again if we are to have the confidence of voters.”
Peters had not completed the certification course and faced felony charges for allowing unauthorized persons to image county voting machines while the cameras were off. Those images and the passwords eventually ended up online.
“I hope this will build voter confidence that their elections are safe and secure,” Lontine said.
Wednesday night’s floor debate was largely led by Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Chaffee, who repeatedly questioned the 2020 election results. During the discussion, he repeatedly questioned the security of voting machines and accused China of trying to intervene.
“Elections belong to the people,” Hanks said. “These systems are not secure. They’re not safe in any sense of the word, and they should be.”
These claims, however, have been repeatedly refuted by election officials on both sides of the aisle across the country.
Hanks also questioned whether parts of the bill would make it harder for the public to scrutinize the election and defended the imaging of voting materials, saying one person’s crime is another’s duty to preserve information. .
Other, more moderate Republicans also questioned the need for parts of the bill and accused it of centralizing some voting power in the secretary of state’s office.
“To me, that’s the question we’re here to answer: does this bill do a better job of building trust, being open and transparent, and dedicated to constant improvement?” And I would say no,” said Rep. Hugh McKean, R-Larimer. “I feel like it falls short of that. It brings some of that transparency back into a more central location.
Because of that, McKean feared the bill would mean counties would lose local control and people who live far from Denver wouldn’t be able to check their electoral systems.
In the end, both sides agreed that they wanted the election to be secure, they just disagreed on how to do it.
Overnight, Republicans suggested a number of amendments – ranging from declaring that deceased people cannot vote and banning the harvesting of ballots to requiring audits of the role of voters and the removal of people from voting rolls who respond to jury duty claims that they do not live in the area. Democrats argued that these changes were unnecessary and are already in law.
None of the proposed amendments were ultimately adopted.
Despite calls for amendments and the filibuster, Democrats remained adamant on the bill’s wording and were able to pass it just before midnight. Now we need one more vote in the House, which could happen as early as Friday.