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Colorado judge bars embattled clerk Tina Peters from overseeing Mesa County elections

Peters is running for secretary of state and faces criminal charges tied to voting machine password leaks

(CN) — Colorado’s notorious election fraud evangelist, Tina Peters, has been blocked from overseeing Mesa County’s elections during her final year as clerk and recorder.

While facing criminal charges for her role in leaking machine passwords last year, Peters is also running to unset the Colorado secretary of state who sued twice to block her from overseeing county elections.

"The court finds that Peters has breached her duties by failing to follow the order of the secretary,” wrote 21st Judicial District Judge Valerie Robison in a 36-page order Tuesday.

Peters first came under scrutiny in 2021 after a security breach in her office led to the exposure of sensitive passwords and election processes. She is accused of allowing an unauthorized person to participate in what should have been a secure process for installing an update to the electronic voting system. Court documents indicate Peters took videos and photos, which included passwords and were leaked online.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold successfully sued to block Peters from participating in the 2021 election, then filed a second lawsuit in January to bar Peters from overseeing the 2022 primary and midterm elections after she refused to sign an election order requiring her to follow the state's protocol.

Following a grand jury investigation, Peters faces three felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, four felony counts related to impersonation and identity theft and a misdemeanor count each of official misconduct, violating her duties and failing to comply with the secretary of state’s requirements.

Amidst civil and criminal investigations into her conduct, Peters announced in February she was running to try to take the seat from Griswold, a Democrat. During the Republican assembly in April, Peters received strong party support and secured a spot on the primary ballot.

Throughout the state’s voting machine investigation, Peters told supporters she is standing up for what she believes in while citing baseless election fraud conspiracies spread after Biden won the presidency in 2020.

The Mesa County Board of County Commissioners reported investigating Peters' claims of irregularities in the 2020 vote count, but did not find evidence of a single fraudulent vote.

During a two-day hearing in April, Peters’ attorneys claimed the state's order violated her free speech rights.

“The only speech that was sought to be curtailed was speech that would ‘indicate a willingness to compromise the voting system equipment,’ which was not an unreasonable requirement,” Robison wrote and found Peters failed to follow the procedure to challenge the state's requirements.

“Irrespective, despite the protests of the respondents, the court determines that Executive Order 2022-01 is now a final rule that has not been challenged, nor was there ever a request for judicial review," Robison added.

Robison also granted a request from the board of county commissioners to appoint deputy clerk Brandi Bantz to serve as a designated elections official in Mesa County.

“The Court’s decision today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible elections they deserve,” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold in a statement. “I am confident Mesa voters will have great elections this year."

Peters’ attorney, Scott Gessler, did not immediately respond to Courthouse News' request for comment.

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