Mesa County Clerk Embroiled In Election Security Scandal May Be Court Ordered To Stay Out Of Next Election

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Signs that direct voters to a ballot drop box outside the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s offices in Grand Junction on Thursday, August 26, 2021.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit on Monday to officially prevent Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from having any role in the county’s upcoming fall election. 

Earlier this month, Griswold announced Peters would not be allowed to oversee the election because of a security breach, but on Monday Griswold said only the courts can remove Peters from the process entirely.

“This legal action is necessary because although the Secretary of State’s Office can require supervision of a county clerk’s conduct, it cannot remove a sitting county clerk from acting as the Designated Election Official,” stated a media release from Griswold’s office. 

Griswold said her office found evidence that Peters brought an unauthorized person into a secure room where Mesa County’s election equipment is stored. It appears copies of the county’s election management software and passwords were shared with people who believe the 2020 election was rigged by Dominion Voting Systems, the company that supplies Mesa County’s equipment. 

That unauthorized individual allegedly took pictures before and after a Dominion system update, and also observed the update.

The Mesa county’s district attorney and FBI are investigating the allegations but no criminal charges have been filed against Peters or anyone else who may be involved. 

Peters did not immediately respond to a request for comment. She has not returned to work since the allegations came to light, but spoke at a cybersecurity conference earlier this month that promoted unsupported conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Her exact whereabouts are unknown. 

At the conference, Peters said she believes something about the 2020 election wasn’t right and she wanted to try to find answers. Supporters of Peters say leaking information about Dominion is justified.

Mesa County’s Republican Commissioners recently agreed to a new contract with Dominion Voting Systems to get updated machines for this fall election.

They also managed to reach an agreement with Griswold about who will oversee the November election instead of Peters. Griswold had appointed former Mesa Clerk, and current County Treasurer, Sheila Reiner. Commissioners, however, chose former Secretary of State Wayne Williams. On Monday, Griswold dropped her objection to their choice.

“I appreciate the confidence the Commissioners, the Secretary, and the Attorney General have shown,” said Williams, a Republican who is currently on the Colorado Springs City Council as well as offering election consulting services. “The Mesa Elections team, Treasurer Reiner, and I will be working hard to deliver a transparent and fair election this fall for the citizens of Mesa County.”

It’s still possible Peters could object to being removed from participating in the election process this fall, since she is the local election official. The state’s lawsuit is being fast-tracked.