In a transparent effort to try to suppress participation in the November 2020 election, President Donald Trump has spent weeks castigating mail-in voting with completely bogus claims of potential fraud and more — and that puts Cory Gardner in a tough spot. After all, the Republican senator from Colorado was elected in 2014 through balloting largely done by mail — yet the only way he's got a chance against a tough challenger, former governor John Hickenlooper, is if he remains in the good graces of Trump and the national GOP, which has been spending big money on hysterical attack ads.
During recent interviews, Gardner has said positive things about the way Colorado has conducted mail-in voting, and he did so again, more or less, during a forum not meant for public consumption: an August 5 telephone fundraiser. But in a transcript from the event obtained by Westword, he also sought to cast doubts on a nationwide application of the process amid the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that should keep The Donald happy, since his references to heavy-handedness coming out of "Washington, D.C." are explicitly aimed at Congress.
During the fundraiser, a caller introduced the topic of mail-in voting with this: "My question is, if you guys are going to mail out all the ballots, and nobody has to vote with ID in the most important thing in our lives that we do is voting. Why on earth would we have to have a DMV? We don't need identification to drive. These are petty things. Buy alcohol, buy a gun. Why on earth do we have to have ID to do all these other things? Yet, the most important thing that the American people do is vote."
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After thanking the caller for his question, Gardner replied: "Look, protecting the integrity of our elections is job number one when it comes to carrying out free, transparent, secure elections, which we have to have. We know what's happened in California, where they have voter harvesting laws that allow people weeks and weeks and weeks after the election to change the result of the election. We saw what happened in Florida while the Supreme Court of Florida actually found that state officials had acted unconstitutionally in the way that they were carrying out that election. I'm proud of the work that we've done in Colorado. I'm proud of the way that we have carried out our election, but we have to make sure that Washington, D.C., it doesn't impose some kind of California or Florida style voting regime that impedes the protections of our elections across the country."
Gardner added: "When Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were arguing about what we should do to make sure we have a strong constitution, the last thing on their minds was if they could tell Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming how they were supposed to vote and the way they were going to carry out their elections. That's not what this country was founded on. Washington, D.C., needs to stay away from running our elections. And so that's why I support the strongest protections when it comes to our security. In Colorado, we've been able to do that, we've been able to protect our elections, but I worry very much about the changes they may try to loosen up the requirements that we have in Colorado, and trying to make it more difficult for people to win an honest election because of the changes to voter harvesting laws that they may make."
At that point, Gardner referenced HR-1, also known as the "For the People Act of 2019," which "was out of the House of Representatives, you know, where they actually try to empower the Attorney General of the United States over independent campaign clerks or county clerks across our states. They want Washington, D.C., to run elections. They want Washington, D.C., the bureaucracy, Nancy Pelosi [and a] handpicked few to make the decisions about how Colorado or any state, for that matter, is able to carry out their elections. We're not going to let it happen. We can stop it by winning in Colorado. Colorado is the key. We win in Colorado, they cannot take the Senate majority. That's the important thing about tonight. That's why I'm asking for your help."
A certain commander-in-chief would undoubtedly approve.