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Colorado secretary of state sues to stop county clerk from overseeing 2022 election

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters has been accused of letting someone into a secure area during a software update for Dominion voting machines and that passwords for the machines were posted online during the 2021 election.

(CN) — Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from overseeing the 2022 election amid leaked voting machine passwords in 2021 and Peters' refusal to sign an election order requiring her to use the county’s voting machines procured from Dominion Voting Systems.

Griswold sued Peters this past August to prevent her from overseeing the 2021 election after she leaked voting machine passwords and images of equipment during security updates.

Judge Valerie Jo Robinson of the 21st District granted an injunction through the completion of Peters' 2021 election-related tasks but did not address future elections. Robinson was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, in 2007.

On Jan. 10, Griswold issued an election order asking Peters to maintain 24/7 video surveillance of voting equipment, keep electronic logs of access to equipment, and send regular progress reports on election issues.

Peters refused to sign the order that also asked her to follow state election laws and use the Dominion Voting Systems purchased by Mesa County, according to the 17-page complaint filed Tuesday.

On Jan. 13, Peters held a press conference announcing her reelection bid and her decision to decline the state’s election order limiting her job duties.

"Our illustrious Queen Griswold, elected with George Soros money, has allowed me to resume my job in elections, that you elected me to do, if and only if I make a public statement saying we don't need more transparency in our elections and that there was no voter fraud,” Peters said at the press conference. After describing Griswold’s election order as a “gag order," she received a round of applause.

A Mesa County voters joined Griswold's lawsuit to keep Peters from running the election, as did chief deputy clerk and recorder Belinda Knisley and second chief deputy Julie Fisher.

“Every eligible Coloradan — Republican, Democrat, and independent alike — has the right to make their voice heard in safe and secure elections. 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," Griswold said in a statement.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare Peters absent or unable to perform her duties as designated election official and to appoint current director of Mesa County Elections Division Brandi Bantz to take over during the 2022 election. The state also named former Secretary of State Wayne Williams and current Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, both Republicans, to assist.

Home to 154,000 residents, Mesa County sits on Colorado’s western slope, roughly 40 miles from the Utah border.

According to the state, 86% of registered Coloradoans voted in the 2020 election casting more than 3.2 million ballots.

Griswold decertified Mesa County’s voting equipment in 2021, following the security breach, replacing the equipment with new machines from Dominion Voting Systems. The complaint warned further security breaches could delay 2022 elections in Mesa County.

“Leading up to and upon being barred as Mesa County Designated Election Official for  2021, Peters continued to make statements indicating that she did not view her behavior as unlawful and that she could repeat that unlawful  behavior,” the plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Peters did not immediately respond to press inquiries seeking comment.

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