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A woman reads off a piece of paper while reporters surround her.
In this March 3, 2020 photo, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, center, reads the results from the first round of ballots for the 2020 presidential primary elections at the Mesa County election office in Grand Junction, Colo. The county's election equipment has been decertified and will have to be replaced following a security breach allegedly aided by Peters. (McKenzie Lange/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from having any oversight role in the 2022 election. 

The lawsuit comes after Peters, a Republican, refused last week to comply with a list of election security terms from Griswold, a Democrat, ahead of the November contest. The terms included that Peters be accompanied when near any of her county’s voting equipment and that she retract statements in which she “indicated a willingness to compromise Mesa County’s voting system equipment.”

“Every eligible Coloradan – Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike – has the right to make their voice heard in safe and secure elections,” Griswold said in a written statement Tuesday. “As Clerk Peters is unwilling to commit to following election security protocols, I am taking action to ensure that Mesa County voters have the elections they deserve.”

Peters responded to the lawsuit Tuesday with defiance.

“I will not back down,” she said. “Not now, not ever.” 

A judge barred Peters from having an oversight role in the 2021 election after she was accused of facilitating a security breach of her county’s election system. Peters is under a criminal investigation by local, state and federal authorities, and last week a Mesa County grand jury agreed to begin a probe into allegations of official misconduct against her.

Griswold is seeking to appoint Brandi Bantz, Mesa County’s election director, as the county’s designated election official in November. Griswold says the Mesa County commissioners’ support the appointment. 

Griswold is also seeking to appoint former Secretary of State Wayne Williams and current Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, who are both Republicans, as election supervisors to assist Bantz.

Reinter and Williams helped conduct the 2021 election in Mesa County after Peters was barred from an oversight role.

Mesa County Designated Election Official Wayne Williams speaks about the ballot counting process from inside the polling center on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, at the Mesa County Central Services in Grand Junction. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

The lawsuit is the latest escalation of a battle between Peters and Griswold that has been brewing since last summer, when Peters allegedly allowed an unauthorized person to attend a secure Dominion Voting Systems elections software update. Passwords used in the update were then posted online and circulated on a right-wing social media site. 

Peters has spread baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and has linked herself to Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who has become one of the nation’s top 2020 election conspiracy theorists.

Peters has announced she is running for reelection in November.

The lawsuit (read a copy of it here) from Griswold was filed in Mesa County District Court. 

UPDATE: This story was updated at 2:41 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2021, with comment from Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....