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Mesa County treasurer appointed to oversee upcoming election as FBI joins investigation into clerk’s office

Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner will oversee the county's upcoming elections with the help of a three-person commission

A ballot drop box in Mesa County. (Colorado Sun file)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Tuesday appointed Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner to oversee the county’s upcoming elections and established a three-person commission to assist Reiner.

The commission will include state Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction, Ouray County Clerk and Recorder Michelle Nauer, a Republican, and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat.

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The appointments come after Griswold, a Democrat, decided Monday that she couldn’t trust Tina Peters, the Republican clerk and recorder in Mesa County, to oversee the Nov. 2 contest. Peters is under investigation by the Secretary of State’s Office and local prosecutors after voting equipment passwords and a copy of voting equipment hard drives were leaked.

The FBI said Tuesday that it, too, had joined the investigation.

“The FBI is working with the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office on the forensic review and analysis of county voting systems to determine if there was a potential federal criminal violation,” said Courtney Bernal, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Denver division.

CNN first reported the FBI’s involvement in the case.

Griswold said in a written statement that “the people of Mesa County deserve safe and secure elections.”

“I am confident that with these appointments, voters in Mesa will be able to exercise their constitutional right to have their voices heard in our democracy,” the statement said. “As secretary of state, my top priority is to ensure all election security protocols are followed and to safeguard Coloradans’ right to vote and we will continue to conduct the business required of our office to provide oversight, to ensure the integrity of the state’s elections.”

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Matt Crane, who leads the Colorado County Clerks Association, said his organization supports the move.

“While unusual, this important step of placing a top-notch election expert in the office will ensure a safe and secure election is conducted for the citizens of Mesa County,” Crane, a Republican and a former Arapahoe County clerk and recorder, said in a written statement.

Mesa County’s commissioners disagree with Griswold’s decision. “Our position is she is out of her lane. This is our territory, not her territory,” Commissioner Scott McInnis said Tuesday night.

The commissioners want to decide who will oversee the upcoming election instead of Peters. 9News reports they’d like to pick Wayne Williams, the Republican former secretary of state who is currently serving as a city councilman in Colorado Springs.

Peters has not returned Colorado Sun messages seeking comment on the situation. She said last week at a conference in South Dakota held by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of President Donald Trump who has made baseless claims about last year’s presidential election being fraudulent, that she is being persecuted.

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters was elected to the position in 2018. She was the subject of a recall effort after several issues arose, including the discovery of more than 500 uncounted ballots from a previous election found in a ballot drop box outside of the county elections office. (Gretel Daugherty, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Despite the leaked passwords and hard drive copies, Griswold and other Colorado elections experts do not believe the state’s voting systems are compromised.

The leaked passwords were specific to Mesa County and the U.S. Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency,  housed within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, reviewed the leaked hard drive copies and determined they do not present a risk.

Griswold already ordered Mesa County to scrap its election equipment. It must pay for and set up new voting equipment by Aug. 31 to be used for the Nov. 2 election.


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