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Colorado sues to remove county elections chief who allowed voting machines to be filmed

With an eye on November, Colorado’s secretary of state sued to remove Mesa County’s recorder-clerk from overseeing the county’s coordinated election.

(CN) — Colorado's secretary of state sued Monday to remove the Mesa County clerk and recorder who allowed voting machines to be filmed during an update, exposing sensitive passwords and processes.

“My priority is ensuring that the voters of Mesa County have accessible and secure elections. With the quickly approaching election, I am taking action to ensure that the county’s election office can provide great elections for Mesa voters,” said Secretary of State Jena Griswold in a statement. “As secretary of state, I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Aug. 19 to prevent clerk and recorder Tina Peters from supervising the county’s Nov. 2 coordinated election after she allowed an unauthorized person to observe and film voting machine updates this past May.

While attempting to prevent Peters from operating as a designated election official, the secretary of state supports the county commissioners' nomination of former secretary of state Wayne Williams, a Republican, to stand in as chief designated election official for the county.

"I appreciate the confidence the commissioners, the secretary, and the attorney general have shown," Williams said in a statement. "The Mesa elections team, Treasurer Reiner, and I will be working hard to deliver a transparent and fair election this fall for the citizens of Mesa County."

Home to 154,000 residents, Mesa County sits on Colorado’s western slope, roughly 40 miles from the Utah border. According to the secretary of state’s office, 86% of registered Coloradoans voted in the 2020 election casting more than 3.2 million ballots.

According to the 13-page complaint, Peters “allowed an unauthorized individual to participate in the secure process for installing an update to the county’s electronic voting system, leading to the public disclosure of state-guarded passwords needed to access the equipment.”

Because state law prohibits voting equipment from being connected to the internet, systems must be manually updated in person by either employees from the secretary of state's office or the county clerk-recorder's office.

Griswold's office denied Peters' request to allow third-party observers in to watch the May updates. According to the complaint, the county’s 24-hour surveillance system was turned off from May to August 2021.

On Aug. 2, video of the county’s equipment being updated including passwords was posted on Telegram, a social media site, and the Gateway Pundit blog.

The incident is currently being investigated by the state attorney general’s special prosecutions unit as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the complaint.

"Colorado’s electorate cannot wait for the final resolution of these investigations and any criminal charges that may ultimately be filed. Counties are now preparing for the November 2, 2021 coordinated statewide election, and Mesa County’s participation in that election must be conducted by a chief designated election official who is able to perform the duties required by the Election Code,” the complaint states.

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners praised its voting system as "arguably the most secure and transparent election system in the United States."

"Our approach includes using both software systems approved by the state, which we will use to tabulate the vote and then validate that vote, backed up by a hand count and posting of ballot images for any individual or organization to further validate the vote on their own. This approach is comprehensive, transparent and secure," the board said in a statement.

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Categories / Courts, Government, Politics

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