Election Conspiracy Drama Spreads from Arizona to More States

  • GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin start audits
  • Embattled elections official in Colorado county alleges tampering

Arizona was only the initial venue for true Donald Trump believers that the 2020 election was stolen from the former president.

Election-doubting dramas are now playing out in other states, as Trump’s most fervent followers push various conspiracy theories and launch audits to prove he won. New investigations are going on in Wisconsin—which is spending taxpayer dollars for a legislative ballot audit—Pennsylvania, and Colorado, where the players include a county clerk in hiding, a QAnon promoter, and perhaps the nation’s most well-known pillow salesman.

It’s “not surprising these audits are spreading,” said Floyd Ciruli of the Denver polling and consulting firm Ciruli & Associates. “There are national forces that are encouraging this. Colorado is considered to be a model of efficiency and convenience. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

Photographer: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images
Unopened ballots await the signature-verification process before being counted at the Denver Elections Division Building on Nov. 3, 2020, in Denver, Colo.

In Pennsylvania, Jake Corman, leader of the Republican-controlled Senate, said this week that the state would re-examine its 2020 election results, The New York Times reported. In an interview with a right-wing radio host, Corman said he expected to use the full power of the state’s General Assembly, including subpoenas, to conduct the “forensic investigation.”

In Colorado, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters floated conspiracy theories about the 2020 election while speaking Aug. 10 at a “cyber symposium” sponsored by Mike Lindell, founder and CEO of MyPillow Inc. Peters said Dominion Voting Systems machines didn’t accurately tally votes, given that some Republicans won by ho-hum margins in the deep-red county, where Trump won by more than 27 percentage points.

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Meanwhile the FBI, the county district attorney, and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) are investigating Peters for allegedly allowing an unauthorized individual to access a secure area at the county election office and take pictures that included images of voting equipment passwords. The pictures were posted online on Aug. 2 to The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website, by Ron Watkins, who has played a major role in spreading the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Clerk Replaced

Griswold stripped Peters of her election authority and tapped her predecessor to do the job temporarily. She also ordered the county to replace the compromised voting machines by Aug. 31, or count November 2021 ballots by hand.

Mesa County commissioners said Griswold was out of bounds for replacing Peters, and they designated Wayne Williams, a former Republican secretary of state and Griswold’s predecessor, to oversee the election instead.

Peters has been away from Mesa County since appearing at the cyber summit in Sioux Falls, S.D., where she, Lindell, and others peddled in—but did not produce any evidence of—claims the 2020 election was hacked. After the summit, Lindell arranged for Peters to go to Texas, but when a member of his staff leaked details of her location, Peters was moved, according to videos posted to LindellTV.com.

In an hour-long interview on LindellTV, Peters said her hotel room had been broken into, prompting Lindell to say: “I guess we’re going to have get you moved again.” It’s not clear who’s paying for all this—Colorado law prohibits elected officials from taking more than $65 in gifts.

Lindell said he has “all the goods” to prove voter fraud in Mesa County. “This is the biggest cover-up of the biggest crime in American history,” he said.

$680,000 ‘To Start’

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) announced additional resources for an existing investigation into the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin, featuring former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman and a team of three retired police officers. Joe Biden won Wisconsin by 20,608 votes. The probe is to be completed by October.

In a podcast interview with former White House senior counselor Steve Bannon, Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said $680,000 “to start” will be spent on the investigation. Money to pay for it will come from state taxpayers and out-of-state sources, said Priebus, a former Wisconsin GOP chairman.

Gableman, who attended a Nov. 7 political rally for Trump supporters, said in a WISN-TV interview that the goal “is to try to do whatever I can so that going forward people can have confidence that their vote counts.”

The investigation will include analyzing voting machines used in the November elections, Gableman said.

Democrats decried what they characterized as Republican attempts to promote Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud to change voting practices in future elections.

“Let’s be clear. This dangerous game being played by Robin Vos and other Wisconsin Republicans is part of a coordinated and well-funded national effort, with the ultimate goal being to undermine and overturn future elections,” Assembly Minority Leader Gorden Hintz (D) said in a statement.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bloomberglaw.com; Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com