Tina Peters’ Quixotic attempt to win Colorado’s top election official would be comical if it were not so terrifying. The state’s foremost election denier spent more than a quarter-million dollars on a recount to find out that she lost by the exact same margin the original tally indicated.
Peters lost by more than 88,000 votes while garnering only a little over 180,000 statewide. This was not a nailbiter.
Put into perspective, since the 2000 presidential election there have been just over 30 statewide recounts across the country. The biggest vote swing was in Florida in 2018 when Ron DeSantis lost 3,500 votes (out of more than 8.2 million cast), but still won the election.
Peters needed to flip 25 times as many votes from a total vote count less than one tenth the size. I have a better chance to find a winning Powerball ticket lying in the street.
But those odds did not dissuade Peters and her supporters. They plowed ahead raising money, paying for a recount and filing lawsuits to demand a hand count of ballots. She could not be convinced that she had lost by any means other than vote fraud so massive it would make Lyndon Johnson blush.
That is exactly why Peters’ actions should be a grave warning to anyone interested in preserving American democracy. Peters is the best embodiment of a substantial section of the populace more interested in airing grievances than winning elections and governing.
Peters more than tripled her total campaign fundraising haul after she had lost the primary election. Having raised $234,196 through the election, she raked in more than a cool $500,000 in a little more than a month afterward.
I have never seen anything like this. Nobody has.
It is not unusual for candidates, even losing candidates, to continue fundraising post-election. Often they have debts they wish to pay off — frequently to vendors who postponed payment and sometimes to reduce personal loans made to their own campaigns. The money trickles in and usually covers only a fraction of the debt.
Peters’ cash flow came like a flash flood.
Immediately after losing, Peters began fundraising to pay for her challenges. She appeared on Steve Bannon’s show twice asking for money. Bannon, who once referred to Peters’ campaign as a “national crusade,” helped persuade thousands of his followers to send her post-election funds.
Peters, Bannon, and the millions of people who align with them did not care that she had no path to victory. They simply wanted to keep yelling and screaming and complaining and making wholly unsupported claims.
Just wait until November or 2024. Those same folks will be out attempting to enforce their twisted version of election integrity across the county. I still cannot figure out whether the worst-case scenario involves deaths or collapse of the electoral system. Probably some combination of both.
Peters’ efforts will continue as she pursues a lawsuit to force a hand recount of ballots. I presume that her efforts will be dismissed by a judge in perfunctory fashion. There is no basis in law or reason — or any coherent mental state — to believe Peters won the primary election.
While that is all well and good when someone like Peters loses by big margins, it becomes a crisis when a similar nutjob like Mark Finchem wins in a swing state like Arizona. If he takes office, the 2024 presidential election is all but decided in one of the most hotly contested states in 2020.
His candidate will win or Finchem will simply tamper with the votes to make it happen.
Too bad for Peters he was not running Colorado elections this year. It is the only thing that could have made a difference in the outcome.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq