2020 Chaffee County Elections.

Prior to the 2020 election, I completed the training to serve as a Poll Watcher. A Poll Watcher is not an election judge, but is a representative of their party who observes the election process, looking for problems. The Republican Party attempted to get approval from the Chaffee Count Clerk's Office for me to serve during the 2020 election. However, the party could not get approval back from the Clerk.

Curious as to why I was excluded, I began looking into what happened. I learned from Clerk MitchelI that no poll watchers served during the 2020 election. I requested a list of the Election Judges. There were 29 Democrats, 12 unaffiliated, and 13 Republicans. Seeing that Republicans were underrepresented, I requested a copy of the Election Judge Duty roster by party. The duty roster was not provided by the Clerk.

I then informally requested a copy of the surveillance video of the Counting Rooms. In a 10/16/20 article in the Mountain Mail, Clerk Mitchell describes a surveillance video (mandated by law) which is recorded 24/7 in the counting rooms. Since the Clerk and Staff have unfettered access to the counting rooms where ballots are kept, this video is key evidence as to the integrity of the election process.

Once I requested the surveillance video, the Judge's duty roster which had been withheld, was immediately produced. This appeared to me to be an attempt to deflect attention away from my informal request for the election video. Curious and suspicious, I filed a formal CORA Request for the video on 12/16/20.

After a variety of delays, I was told that it would cost up to $6,500 to obtain a copy of this video! I was offered a less expensive option; namely, to come in and watch the video on the County’s equipment. Since there are hundreds of hours of footage to be reviewed, this was not a desirable option. Nevertheless, I went to the Courthouse to attempt to watch the video on 1/6/21. The equipment was not ready. The technician went into the next room to get the video machine, which serves as both storage device and player. Crash! Boom! Bang! I was told that the video machine had been dropped from the "high shelf" where it was stored.

We subsequently tried to play the video, but the machine did not work. The video data on this machine is uniquely encrypted to this specific (now damaged) device. It is unlikely the data will ever be viewable. I recently was given a copy of this encrypted video, but there is little hope of deciphering it.

The 10/16/20 Mountain Mail article also said that Clerk Mitchell and her staff count the votes. Colorado election law CRS 1-7-5.201.1 does not allow the Clerk to count your paper ballots. The Clerk should not even be in the room while counting is taking place, CRS 1-7-307.4. Ballot counting by the Clerk violates Colorado election law and I have filed an affidavit with the District Attorney to that effect. I also filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State.

I was content to let the legal process churn, until I saw a letter to the Editor in the Mountain Mail from a recently re-elected Chaffee County Commissioner, dripping with contempt for anyone who would dare question the last election.

In response, I submitted a letter to the Editor to the Mountain Mail and the Chaffee County Times on 1/26/21, which are both owned by Publisher Merle Baranczyk. Here is my letter in its entirety:

"In his January 12, 2021 letter, County Commissioner Keith Baker states, "Members of the public need to understand the truth. The Democratic candidate won the presidency in a free and fair election. There was no voter fraud that affected the outcome of the election." Is his statement based on evidence, or on belief?

Let's ask Commissioner Baker to look closer to home, to the 2020 Chaffee County elections.

On October 16, 2020, the Mountain Mail printed an interview with Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell describing the 2020 election process. The article says that Clerk Mitchell and her staff feed your paper ballots through the optical tabulator to count votes.

Colorado election law CRS 1-7-5.201.1 does not allow the Clerk to count your paper ballots. The Clerk should not even be in the room while counting is taking place. Ballot counting by the Clerk violates Colorado election law and I have filed an affidavit with the District Attorney to that effect.

The election law says that the Clerk must appoint at least three counting judges, not more than two of whom shall be from any one major political party to count the ballots. However, in Chaffee County, we have a partisan, elected official handling and counting the paper ballots.

Per Colorado law, a poll watcher can be assigned by a political party or candidate to observe activities at a polling place to guard against illegal voting, fraudulent counting of ballots, and other violations. I trained as a poll watcher for the 2020 election. My political party submitted my credentials to Chaffee County, but could not get approval back from the County Clerk.

As it turns out, there were no poll watchers at the 2020 Chaffee County election. Zip, zero, none. There was no voter fraud reported in Chaffee County because there was no oversight of the election.

On December 16th, I placed a CORA request for the election surveillance video. I was initially told that it would cost up to $6,500 to make a copy, but I could come to the Courthouse and view the video for free. When I arrived at the Courthouse, the election footage could not be played on the equipment. The County now says they will give me a copy of the “native format” video; however, it will be encrypted and may not be able to be viewed.

Back to Commissioner Baker. The national election result is the conglomeration of many thousands of voting jurisdictions like Chaffee County. Chaffee County's election, under Baker and the Democratic Committee’s jurisdiction, was terribly flawed. How can you say there are no problems anywhere else when your own house is not in order?

I request a hand recount of the paper ballots. If this result closely matches the reported election results, Commissioner Baker will have affirmed his commitment to an open and fair process in Chaffee County. If not, it shows that his letter was nothing but empty, partisan bluster."

You have not seen this letter because the Mountain Mail and the Chaffee County Times have refused to print it. When I asked Editor Paul Goetz why he would not print the letter, he said, "Jerry, your letter is being rejected because of libel issues and he said, she said content. We looked into some of your accusations and found nothing that jumped out and said “illegal” actions by the clerk. The Oct. 16 article you refer to in the letter does not say Mitchell or her staff count votes. There is nothing in state or federal law that specifies the clerk cannot go into the room while counting is taking place. The county had judges and the county had ballot watchers. Your best bet is to continue forward with the DA. If anything comes out of that let us know."

Every statement in this rejection letter is patently false. My interpretation is that the "she said" is County Clerk Lori Mitchell telling the Mountain Mail that my statements are untrue. I am telling the truth and have offered proof, which the Mountain Mail declines to examine. Why am I writing to you? The Mountain Mail has thwarted my ability to inform the public.

Be aware that there was no independent oversight of the 2020 Chaffee County election. Email me if you have information about the election, or want to help.

Jerry Raski, Salida

[email protected]


  • I learned long ago the Mountain Merle prints what it wants to, and doesn't print anything that would go against what THEY deem crosses the "Moral Line". It's not nearly as slanted as the Arkansas Valley Voice, which is in MY opinion a complete and total waste of time.

    At the end of the day, someone should check out your assertions.. Not sure that LTE's are going to be the solution to the problem though.

  • edited February 2021

    I wrote an email to Merle to plead my case. He ignored my plea and passed the email on to Paul to handle.

    What do mean by LTE's? Long Term Evolution?

  • LTE = Letter to the Editor..

  • Oh, duh. Of course.

    I've filed a formal complaint with the Secretary of State and an affidavit with the district attorney. I hope something will come of that.

  • edited February 2021

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