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Politics and Government

Colorado secretary of state files lawsuit to prevent Mesa County clerk from being involved in upcoming election

Jena Griswold's filing asks the Mesa County District Court to make former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, the county's designated election official, and county Treasurer Sheila Reiner the elections director

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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from being involved in the election in November.

Griswold’s filing asks the Mesa County District Court to make former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams the county’s designated election official, and county Treasurer Sheila Reiner the elections director. Williams and Reiner are Republicans.

“My priority is ensuring that the voters of Mesa County have accessible and secure elections. With the quickly approaching election, I am taking action to ensure that the county’s election office can provide great elections for Mesa voters,” Griswold, a Democrat, said in a written statement Monday. “As secretary of state, I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”

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Griswold’s office said that the 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.”

A designated election official is a person responsible for running elections for a local government, like a municipality or a county. They make determinations regarding elections issues for their municipality or county.

Griswold had already appointed Reiner to supervise the upcoming election. Mesa County’s commissioners, meanwhile, sought to have Williams appointed as the county’s designated election official.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks to the state’s nine Democratic presidential electors before they cast votes for Joe Biden at the State Capitol on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, Pool)

Peters, a Republican who has cast baseless doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election, is under investigation after a copy of an election system hard drive and Dominion Voting Systems equipment passwords from her office were posted online. Griswold claims that evidence shows Peters helped facilitate the leaks, at least in part, by allowing an unauthorized person to attend a secure software update.

The FBI, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and Mesa County prosecutors are all investigating the situation.

“Colorado’s electorate cannot wait for the final resolution of these investigations and any criminal charges that may ultimately be filed,” the lawsuit says. “Counties are now preparing for the Nov. 2, 2021, coordinated statewide election, and Mesa County’s participation in that election must be conducted by a chief designated election official who is able to perform the duties required by the Election Code.”

The lawsuit alleges “Peters has breached her duties and committed wrongful acts.” Specifically, it asks that the court rule she is absent or unable to perform her duties.

Peters, who has been in hiding for several weeks, has not responded to Colorado Sun requests for an interview.

Peters attended a conference in South Dakota earlier this month held by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of President Donald Trump who has made baseless claims about last year’s presidential election being stolen. She told Lindell that she is being persecuted, but provided no proof.

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)

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.

Mesa County was forced to procure new voting equipment before the Nov. 2 election as a result of the security breach. The county commissioners last week extended their contract with Dominion through 2029.


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