County clerks’ offices across Colorado saw an influx of Colorado Open Records Act requests for cast vote records from the 2020 election after Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO, hosted the “Moment of Truth Summit” in Springfield, Missouri, last weekend.
In a call to action at the summit, which was livestreamed, Lindell said “every single person in the country” should go to their local county clerk’s office to ask for cast vote records from the 2020 election.
He provided a form on his website for people to submit asking for the specific information. Lindell falsely claims the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump and is one of the country’s leading “big lie” proponents.
Cast vote records are electronic records that show how every individual voted in an election. Kristi Ridlen, spokesperson for El Paso County’s Clerk and Recorder’s Office, said they essentially show how election management software reads the ballots cast.
Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said the influx in requests is a direct result of Lindell’s call to action. Crane said the coordinated requests are a “denial of service” attack to keep county clerks from tending to the duties they were elected to do.
“We have nothing to hide,” Crane said. “There’s no honor to what these people are doing, there’s no integrity to it. It’s just helping them continue their grift.”
Crane attended the annual conference for the Election Center, a national association of election officials, in Denver this week, and he said the records requests was a hot topic among attendees from around the country. He said everyone who works in this space supports citizens’ rights to petition their government for information, but these requests have no basis.
“It’s overwhelming,” Crane said. “I’ve heard from people in other states, other jurisdictions where they’re actually having to hire people now just to handle these open records requests.”
After seeing so many requests for the same information, some clerks’ offices made their 2020 cast vote records publicly available on their websites. A spokesperson from the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office said the office received nine requests for the records as of Thursday morning.
Spokesperson Lucille Wenegieme said the clerk’s office has been tracking trends of CORA requests and applied redactions so the office could make the cast vote records public, which it has since completed.
In El Paso County, Ridlen said the Clerk and Recorder’s Office has received about 15 requests for cast vote records this week. But Ridlen said it isn’t information one needs to file a CORA request for in El Paso County, because it’s been publicly available on the clerk’s website since 2020.
She said every request was essentially copy and pasted with identical wording.
“Somebody told them to go and request this and that’s exactly what they did, word for word verbatim of the request,” Ridlen said. “We were kind of anticipating a higher increase. I have noticed a trend when there’s been either a summit or a podcast or whatever the case may be over the last couple of years, people will say, ‘You need to CORA this from your county clerk and recorder.’ We do see an uptick in those responses.”
Ridlen said the increase in these requests started not long after the 2020 election. The same goes for Weld County, where Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes said she’s seen about 10 or more requests for 2020 cast vote records this week. Koppes said she also expects a new influx of requests whenever an event like Lindell’s summit occurs, and that it’s been happening “pretty regularly across the nation.”
Weld County doesn’t have the actual cast vote record spreadsheet immediately available on its website, but it does have a tool available where people can see ballot images and audit marks, which Koppes said is essentially the same as the cast vote record.
In response to the CORA requests, Koppes said she explains how requesters can view the information on the website and also includes the spreadsheet of the actual cast vote record.
“We’ve had a lot of requests for our cast vote records because apparently these people were provided with incorrect information stating that we will delete our cast vote records come Sept. 3,” Koppes said. “They don’t understand that the cast vote record is a report, and here in Weld County we keep that for historical reasons.”
Koppes said she thinks the Sept. 3 date of concern likely comes from the federal 22-month retainment requirement for election materials, as the date marks 22 months since the November 2020 election. But, Colorado has a 25-month retainment requirement, so even if her office planned to dispose of election materials, they couldn’t until Dec. 3.
Election materials that fall under the Colorado requirement include everything that would be needed to recreate the entire election if necessary, including the physical paper ballots, return envelopes, risk-limiting audits and more. Koppes said it’s black-and-white in Colorado statutes what is required to be retained.
“It’s just unfortunate that they have been given bad information again,” Koppes said. “These people who are instructing them to do these CORA requests clearly don’t have enough knowledge to know that in Colorado, we actually are required to keep things for 25 months.”
Crane said Lindell could easily submit records requests to all 64 counties in Colorado himself but that he won’t, because he wants to drive “good and decent citizens” to “do their dirty work for them.”
Crane said he’s heard from other clerks that those making the requests frequently don’t know what they’re asking for or why – just that they were told they were supposed to ask for it.