Mesa County citizens volunteering as election judges were shocked to see others show up at their training session at the Workforce Center armed with guns. One volunteer, P.G., reported, “A guy walked into the Monday training with a gun on his hip, and the people giving the training didn’t say anything, even though I raised the issue.”
The volunteer felt bringing deadly weapons to an elections training was inappropriate and intimidating, and contacted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, but Peters said she couldn’t do anything, saying “They’re allowed to do it.” Peters further stated that firearms are okay because “we are an open-carry state.” P.G. felt Clerk Peters should have informed election volunteers that they are attending the training as election judges, and not policemen, and should leave their guns at home.
The Mesa County Workforce’s website also says “No weapons are permitted on the premises,” but the trainer told P.G. that the Workforce Center did not prohibit carrying weapons.
Election volunteers also said they asked a supervisor named Debra about people in the parking lot with guns at polling places, and Debra responded “They are helping the police.” They also said Debra wasn’t the only election official who gave them that response.
“Tina Peters also said that the people with guns ‘would be protecting us if any violence occurs,” the volunteers reported.
Volunteers said there was a “huge intimidation factor” of having “gun people” at public polling centers. One volunteer said “I feel uncomfortable with anyone open carrying.”
The Democratic Party is circulating a fact sheet on how to recognize unlawful militias.(pdf) The sheet says, “Groups of armed individuals that engage in paramilitary activity or law enforcement functions without being called forth by a governor or the federal government and without reporting to any government authority are acting as unauthorized private militias,” and thus are acting illegally.
Clerk Peters refuses to require masks at polling places
Adding to election judges’ discomfort was Clerk Peters’ refusal to require face masks be worn to enter indoor polling places.
Colorado currently has a mandatory face mask requirement in effect for anyone over 11 years of age who is “entering or moving within any indoor public space.” The order was extended on October 11, 2020 for 30 days.
P.G. and his spouse, who is also volunteering as election judge, expressed relief that they were going to be stationed at the polling place inside the Fruita Civic Center, because the City of Fruita prohibits weapons and requires face masks be worn to enter their buildings. The rule will remain in place for election day.
Mesa County is currently experiencing soaring Coronavirus infections and unchecked community spread, which means the source of exposure cannot be determined by contact tracing. The county has added 118 new cases of the virus just since yesterday, and the two-week test positivity rate is now up to 6.11%, the highest it’s been so far during the pandemic. The virus can be spread asymptomatically.
Despite this debacles, P.G. and his wife said that, in response to their expressions of discomfort about being confronted with firearms and finding out masks will not being required by voters at most polling places, election officials told them, “If you’re not comfortable about this, leave.”
Some welcome for volunteers who are risking their health and safety to facilitate and preserve our democracy.