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Colorado lawmakers pass election security package with law to prevent insider threats

 The debate over how to improve election security was one of the most polarizing this legislative session.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
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The debate over how to improve election security was one of the most polarizing this legislative session.

Colorado Democrats have passed a bill they say will protect elections from insider threats.

The measure is partially a response to Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters being criminally charged this year for her alleged role in a security breach.

Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, says the new law will put the state’s voting equipment under permanent video surveillance and lock it behind doors that can only be opened with keycards.

“These are best practices and businesses and governments all over the country, all over the state already follow, so it should be no different for our election system,” he said.

The bill also adds new training requirements for election workers and increases penalties for people involved in security breaches.

But lawmakers dropped an effort to make it a crime to knowingly spread misinformation about elections.

Election security was one of the most polarizing issues this year at the Capitol. Democrats passed several other measures aimed at protecting the people who run them.

Those laws include one making it a crime to openly carry a gun near a polling place, and another toughening criminal penalties for people who threaten or intimidate election workers.

They are all in response to the new threats facing county clerks after the 2020 presidential election.

Adams County Clerk Josh Zygielbaum told lawmakers this spring he has been wearing a bulletproof vest to work.

“I say goodbye to my family, knowing that I may not see them again,” he said. “I accept the risk of this job because I believe in America and I believe in the freedom of individuals to choose their own destiny.”

The top election official in Chaffee County had bulletproof glass installed in her office last year.

Republicans opposed the election security bills.

Instead, they tried unsuccessfully to pass measures early in the session that would have made Colorado change its voting machines and the paper ballots that are mailed to voters.

Copyright 2022 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.