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Politics and Government

Colorado secretary of state appoints election monitors in Elbert and Mesa counties

In Elbert County, the clerk made copies of voting system hard drives. In Mesa County, Tina Peters is being prosecuted in a breach of her county's election system.

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)

By Colleen Slevin, The Associated Press

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Thursday appointed an official to monitor this month’s primary election in a county where the clerk made copies of voting system hard drives and also named advisers to help in another county where the clerk is being prosecuted for allegedly providing unauthorized access to voting equipment.

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder turned over his copies of the hard drives to Griswold’s office after being ordered to by a judge, but an election order naming Christi Coburn as the election supervisor for the June 28 primary states that the investigation into what happens continues and officials do not believe the risk to “election security protocols” has been resolved.

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Coburn, described as a “professional elections administrator” with years of experience, is charged with monitoring all decisions and actions of Schroeder and his staff during the primary election and submitting reports of any “instances of substantial noncompliance” with election laws and rules.

Elbert County will have to pay for the work done by Coburn, the order said.

Schroeder’s lawyer, John Case, declined to comment, saying he had not been able to talk to him yet about the announcement.

Meanwhile, Griswold, a Democrat, appointed former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and former Mesa County clerk Sheila Reiner, now the county’s treasurer, both Republicans, to serve as advisors for the primary election in Mesa County.

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Last month, Judge Valerie Robison barred Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing this year’s elections there at Griswold’s request after finding that Peters and her deputy failed to follow orders of the secretary of state and election law, neglected their duties by failing to take steps to protect confidential information, and lied. She appointed the county’s election director, Brandi Bantz, to oversee this year’s elections instead.

Williams and Reiner will advise Bantz “as needed,” Griswold said. They all worked together last year after Williams was appointed to step in and oversee Mesa County elections instead of Peters.

Peters is being prosecuted for allegedly providing unauthorized access to voting equipment, a breach that led to a public release of sensitive information. She has denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.

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Peters has become a hero to election conspiracy theorists following the lead of former President Donald Trump and is running for the GOP nomination for secretary of state.

The secretary of state’s office has not taken any action at this point to try to block Schroeder from overseeing elections in Elbert County, Griswold spokesperson Annie Orloff said, noting that the office is still reviewing the copies of the hard drives.

Officials have previously been appointed by the secretary of state’s office to monitor elections, most recently in 2020 when Griswold asked Eagle County Treasurer Teak Simonton to monitor the election in Mesa County when Peters was in charge. The Daily Sentinel reported that Simonton was appointed after 574 uncounted ballots from the 2019 election were found in a drop-off box during the presidential primary election in February 2020.

Election supervisors were also previously appointed in Teller and Alamosa counties, Orloff said.



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