Mesa County Clerk and Secretary Tina Peters, embroiled in an election security scandal, has denied any wrongdoing and has asked to remain in her election oversight role this fall.
His attorney said Peters was well within his legal right to share information about the county’s Dominion Voting Systems equipment with a non-employee during an annual system upgrade.
The data from the machines was featured in screenshots shared by QAnon supporters and posted by the right-wing Gateway Pundit website, by those keen to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election.
A court case in response to an effort to remove Peters from election oversight in Mesa, said the information leak was not Peters’ intention, but rather that she was trying to preserve the records and better analyze how the state has updated the system.
“Unfortunately, there has been an unauthorized disclosure of information on one or more publicly available websites,” attorney Scott Gessler said in Mesa County District Court.
In the file, Gessler, a Republican and former Colorado secretary of state, said the current As a result, Secretary of State Jena Griswold took legal action to remove Peters from oversight of this fall’s election, which was “grossly disproportionate” and violated Colorado law, “which grants local control of the elections. to a local elected representative ”.
Mesa County District Attorney and FBI are investigating allegations that Peters gave an unauthorized person access to Dominion election management software and passwords, but no criminal charges have been brought forward. filed against Peters or anyone else in the dispute.
After the revelations about the unauthorized disclosure of the data, Peters, who has become a favorite of electoral conspiracy theorists across the country, appeared at a conference of electoral conspiracy adherents and then went into hiding. She said she feared for her personal safety. Peters returned to Mesa County earlier this week to attend a rally. She has now set up a website to raise funds for her legal defense. She vowed to fight back and said, “We can take our country back. “
“Some powerful people don’t want us to look at the facts,” she said. “They’re actually trying to take me out as a Mesa County recorder just to do my job,” Peters said.
Peters, who is a Republican, called the state’s efforts politically motivated. Griswold is a Democrat.
“I need your support,” Peters told a few hundred people at a church in Grand Junction Thursday night.
She hadn’t been in Colorado for over a month and said she was working remotely.
Griswold’s lawsuit seeks to formally bar Peters from playing a role in the county’s upcoming fall election due to the security breach.
“We know this information was released by an extreme conspiracy theorist,” Griswold said.
One of the reasons the Mesa County security breach is particularly prominent is that it uses equipment from Dominion Voting Systems, one of the largest suppliers of electoral materials in the country. The Denver-headquartered company is also at the center of numerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that claim the counting of the ballots was somehow rigged against former President Donald Trump.
The Dominion pursues a number of libel lawsuits against pro-Trump media and Trump’s conspiracy theories advisers.
Peters said she allowed someone outside her office to capture images because she was concerned that Griswold’s office would keep records during the annual upgrade of electronic voting machines.
“… in response to her concerns, she retained the services of a consultant to image the hard drive of the county’s electronic vote compilation equipment,” according to her file.
The file indicated that the state’s emergency rule to ban consultants from the process was not released until after the incident.
“The new rule prevents clerks and recorders from hiring non-employee consultants who have the expertise to assess, audit or otherwise ensure that electronic vote-counting equipment and other electoral equipment are functioning properly and in accordance with Colorado law. ”
Peters said the footage was aimed at determining whether election records were destroyed and assessing electronic equipment that counts votes from paper ballots.
“After the 2020 election, a significant portion of Mesa County voters raised serious questions about the reliability and accuracy of Mesa County’s electronic vote tabulation equipment,” according to the legal record.
No significant differences were found with regard to the presidential election. Losing Colorado, Donald Trump won the poll in Mesa County with nearly 57,000 of the nearly 91,000 votes cast.
A spokesperson for Griswold’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on the Peters case.
Colorado audits show that there were no issues with the state election. In fact, election officials across the country consider the state to hold some of the best-organized elections in the country. There are paper ballots, which are kept, and post-election audits to make sure the counts match what the machines are counting.
The legal file also asks a judge to reinstate Peters’ deputy, Belinda Knisley.
Knisley has been charged with second degree burglary and cybercrime for entering the building while she was suspended, pending an investigation into unprofessional and inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
“Despite Knisley’s request for further information, neither the human resources manager nor the county administrator provided details of the alleged ‘inappropriate’ behavior,” the file said.
Peters was first elected in 2018, and her tenure as the main local election official in the rural county has been controversial at times. In February 2020, his office admitted to finding 574 uncounted ballots in a 2019 election, which led to a state investigation and called for his resignation.
The state told CPR News that an evidence hearing in the Peters impeachment trial is scheduled for September 30 and that the briefs are due in court by September 27.