Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold is warning anyone who will listen that the fate of free and fair elections in the United States is at stake during November’s midterms.
In many of the most competitive races for offices with authority over U.S. elections, Republicans nominated candidates who have embraced or repeated the Donald Trump myth of a stolen election in 2020.
Griswold, who is president of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State (Dass) and is running for reelection, is urging Americans to pay attention to the once sleepy mood swings for secretary of state or they will lose their democracy.
“What we can expect from the extreme Republicans running through this country is to undermine free and fair elections for the American people, disenfranchise Americans, refuse to address security breaches and, sadly, be more obligated to Mar -a- Better than the American people,” Griswold, 37, said in an interview with The Guardian.
She added: “For us, we are trying to save democracy.”
It is a daunting task, especially in a political environment that has historically favored the party from power in Washington. But the primary results so far have exposed the stakes, she said: “The country could lose the right to vote in less than three months.”
After Trump and his loyalists failed to overturn the 2020 vote, they are now strategically targeting positions that will play a critical role in overseeing the next presidential election, putting many of the 27 secretaries of state in expensive positions this year. , partisan confrontations change.
If elected, Griswold fears these Trump-backed candidates would arming their posts, either by casting doubt on the results of an election that their party loses, or by trying to outright undermine it.
In Arizona, Mark Finchem, a prominent election denier who said he wouldn’t have confirmed Joe Biden’s win in the state, is now the Republican nominee for secretary of state in Arizona. In Michigan, Kristina Karamo, who falsely claimed to have witnessed voter fraud as a 2020 election observer, is the Republican party’s choice to be the state’s chief election official. And in Pennsylvania, where the governor appoints the secretary of state, is Republican governor candidate Doug Mastriano, a far-right lawmaker who led the brazen effort to reverse Biden’s victory in his state and chartered buses to the rally that preceded the riots. in the Capitol.
In November, Griswold will take on Pam Anderson, a former Republican clerk who triumphed over an election conspiracy theorist in her party’s primaries. charged with tampering with election equipment. Anderson pursues a pledge to keep politics out of election administration and analysts anticipate a competitive race.
As she campaigned across Colorado, Griswold said she sees signs that voters are attuned to the real-world risks of candidates with disdain for the Democratic process. Recently, she said on several occasions that voters have burst into tears over the right to vote.
“There’s a lot at stake, but I also think people understand what’s at stake and that’s why you see this enthusiasm,” Griswold said.
She underlined this point and emphasized the growth of the association. Before 2021, Dass had no full-time employees. It now has eight. And the group has already surpassed its cycle fundraising goal, raising $16 million so far — more than 10 times what it raised in the 2018 cycle.
“There is tremendous enthusiasm from Democratic donors and grassroots,” she added. “But, I’ll say, Republicans see a lot of enthusiasm, too.”
Not so long ago, secretaries of state operated in relative obscurity and toiled behind the scenes performing all manner of bureaucratic tasks. Chief among these in most – but not all – states was ensuring the smooth and safe conduct of the US elections. Many saw the role as a ministerial role, far removed from the partisan fighting other offices faced across the state.
That changed in the tumultuous aftermath of the 2020 election. In his brazen bid for a second term, Trump turned his attention to the guardians of the state elections: secretaries of state, district clerks, election council members and other officials in battlefield states. He falsely claimed that the results had been compromised by fraud and pressured them to undo his defeat.
The election officials who stepped forward to resist the defeated president’s fantastic claims and defend the integrity of their election soon became the target of harassment, intimidation and violent threats.
Griswold was one of the most prominent voices to challenge Trump over his attacks on mail voting, a regular feature of the Colorado election. The confrontations made her a lightning rod on the Maga (Make America Great Again) right. Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, once, unbelievably, accused her of murder, a bizarre claim he said was just an “analogy.”
The effect is an almost daily deluge of threats, many violent and eerily “descriptive”.
“It gets to the point where it’s really hard to do your job when someone tells you over and over how they’re going to hang you,” she said.
Threats of violence are an escalating problem across the spectrum of public life in America: from the White House to local school boards. It’s even worse for women and people of color.
Since 2020, local election officials, the vast majority of whom are women, say political attacks, security concerns and misinformation are driving them out of public service at all levels.
Griswold, who became the country’s youngest secretary of state in 2018, is concerned about the “damping effect” the toxic torrent of abuse is having on women in politics. In December, she spoke to a woman who wanted to run for the Colorado state legislature, but told her, “I have a six-year-old son. I see the threats against you and I can’t do it.”
For that reason, Griswold said she was pushing for more security for her office.
“The threshold for us to get violent threats is much lower, so we’re experiencing things that many people would never expect in this country,” she said.
She continued: “The federal government needs to take this seriously. States should take this seriously. And that’s one of the reasons we need more elected women—to understand that it’s not hysteria to say, ‘I should have security because someone repeatedly tells me they’re going to kill me.’”
Despite Griswold’s best efforts, Trump’s lies have become popular with conservative voters in her state.
“I have a province that works behind bulletproof glass,” she said. “I have a town clerk who wears a bulletproof vest. Much of their days are spent responding to conspiracy-driven lawsuits and inquiries designed to “pollute” the system and bog down her office,” she added.
And earlier this year, Tina Peters, a far-right county clerk in Colorado, was indicted on charges of leading a breach of voting machines. The episode urged Griswold to sound the alarm about “threats from within”.
During the June primaries in Colorado, Republican voters rejected Peters’ bid to become the state’s next secretary of state.
Despite losing nearly 15 percentage points, Peters claimed “fraud” cost her the nomination and demanded a recount. The review, which Griswold called undeserved and “conspiracy-based,” confirmed Peters’ loss.
Republicans have accused Griswold of too often blurring the line between defending democracy and defending its seat. It is a charge that many election officials now grapple with: When they defend elections and push for reform, they are often accused of partiality.
“We must reject that it is partisan to protect the right to vote. It’s not,’ she said. “It’s the most American and democratic thing you can do.”
As for her own election, Griswold said her track record speaks for itself. Since the 2020 elections, she has helped expand voting access and strengthen election security. Her office has supported a series of reforms that would give the Colorado Secretary of State’s office the power to certify elections if local officials refuse to do so, protecting them from a scenario that unfolded in New Mexico earlier this summer when Republican officials refused to do so. to certify election.
The law also includes new protections against insider threats, making it a crime to compromise voting equipment or allow unauthorized access to the state’s voting systems, and tighten penalties for threatening election workers or “covering up” by publish their personal information online. Another law passed earlier this year prohibits open carry within 100 feet of a polling station.
Four years ago, when Griswold first ran for the post, she never imagined the kind of challengers her office would face, including “making sure democracy survived a pandemic and also a president of the United States.” trying to steal an election.”
But for many secretaries of state, Griswold said the experience has only “led to further our determination not to let people who want to destroy the country win”.
This year, Griswold said she is keeping her eyes wide open for the danger facing the US election — and democracy — well beyond 2022.
“The struggle to try to take American liberties isn’t over after the election — it won’t be,” she said. “This is a long-term fight.”