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Politics

Secretary of state sues to stop Mesa County clerk from running 2022 vote

Jena Griswold
David Zalubowski
/
AP
In this Oct. 15, 2020, file photo, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold speaks during a news conference about the the state's efforts to protect the process of casting a vote in the general election in downtown Denver. Griswold accused Mesa County's election clerk Tina Peters of directing staff to turn off video surveillance of voting equipment before a May 25, 2021, software update. Griswold also says Peters allowed a non-employee into the elections office during the highly secure software update.

Colorado’s secretary of state has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to remove Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from administering the 2022 election. The action comes amid federal and state investigations into an alleged breach of security involving election equipment in the western Colorado county last year.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, had successfully sued to have Peters, a Republican, and a deputy removed from administering last November's midterm election. Peters has denied any wrongdoing.

Griswold announced the new lawsuit Tuesday after Peters rejected a settlement offer that would have allowed her renewed access to the county elections division under strict state supervision.

Peters has become an advocate for those who believe, without evidence, that the 2020 election was fraudulent — although she has said elections in Mesa County, which voted overwhelmingly for then-President Donald Trump, were secure and accurate. Democrat Joe Biden handily defeated Trump in Colorado in 2020.

Peters said by telephone Tuesday that Griswold “does not want the light shown on her for the election irregularities we uncovered here in Mesa County. Only the people can remove me.” She did not immediately elaborate on what she meant by irregularities.

Griswold's suit, filed in Mesa County District Court, acknowledges she doesn't have the authority to remove Peters but asks the court to do so.

Griswold also requested that Brandi Bantz, a Mesa County elections official with longtime elections experience, to administer the November vote. Griswold said she planned to appoint former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner as election supervisors to assist Bantz.

Williams was appointed the county elections director after a judge barred Peters from supervising the 2021 vote.

Last week, a Mesa County grand jury was convened to investigate allegations of tampering with election equipment. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein didn't say who is being investigated. But Peters is being investigated by the FBI and by Colorado officials in an alleged security breach involving elections equipment in May.

Griswold contends images of election equipment management software from Mesa County were obtained by elections conspiracy theorists and posted on far-right blogs. Griswold’s office has said one of the images was taken May 23 from inside a secure room in Mesa County where the voting equipment was stored and had been accessed that day by Peters, who allowed a non-employee into the room.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved.