Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold gave a press conference today (video) in which she revealed that last May 25th, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters permitted an unauthorized non-employee of the Elections Department to participate in a highly sensitive annual security inspection of Mesa County’s voting equipment called a Trusted Build. The name of the non-employee entered into the log that day was “Gerald Wood,” and Griswold revealed that Woods’ name was entered into the log by the Mesa County Clerk herself. Griswold noted that the non-employee “swiped in, but did not swipe out.”
“This was a breach,” Griswold said. “He was not an employee and he was not background checked. The Clerk misled the Secretary of State’s office about this information.”
“To be very clear, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder allowed a security breach and by all evidence at this point, assisted it.”
This breach caused the highly restricted passwords to Mesa County’s voting machines to turn up on the website of a known right wing conspiracy theorist.
At 3:20 in the press conference video Secretary Griswold described how the breach was carried out:
“It appears a week before the Trusted Build that the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s office directed Mesa County staff to turn off the video surveillance of their voting equipment. Then on May 25th at the Trusted Build, the Mesa County Clerk & Recorder authorized a non-employee into the Trusted Build after misleading my office on the person’s employment status. At that time video was taken, including shots of the sensitive BIOS passwords specific to Mesa County. Video of those passwords and part of the Trusted Build process was posted online last week by a known conspiracy theorist. After the video was taken on May 25, video surveillance of Mesa County’s voting equipment was not turned back on until recently. Video surveillance was not continuous and cannot confirm chain of custody of voting equipment and is inconsistent with my department’s understanding of the normal course of business in Mesa County. In addition, the chain of custody for multiple ICX stations, which are ballot marking devices, reveal that these pieces of voting equipment were not sealed until 1-2 days after the May 25th Trusted Build installation. These machines must be sealed under Colorado rule, and are protected using tamper-evident seals that would indicate if a machine was tampered with. This finding, in conjunction with the lack of video recording and possible access by a non-employee, indicates that the chain of custody for these components cannot be verified. ….”
Griswold then stated,
“…The security of Mesa County’s voting system components cannot be verified and chain of custody for the voting system components cannot be verified. Integrity and security of these components cannot be established. Therefore as Colorado’s Chief Election Official, pursuant to Colorado laws and rules, I have determined it is necessary to take further action. Today I have issued an election order to prohibit the use of these voting system components in Mesa County. This means that the voting equipment currently in Mesa County can no longer be used…”
On August 9, Griswold ordered Clerk Peters to turn over chain of custody logs, video surveillance footage and other evidence to her office, but Peters has not cooperated. Instead, Peters fled the state to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where she attended an election conspiracy “cyber symposium” put on by Mike Lindell, the “My Pillow Guy,” while the District Attorney and the Secretary of State’s offices were executing search warrants on Peters’ Elections Office. Peters faces possible criminal charges in the DA’s investigation of the security breach.
Mesa County must bear the cost of replacing the voting equipment; Commissioners refuse to ask Peters to step down
The voting machines will have to be replaced, or Mesa County will have to do a hand count at the next election, Griswold said. New equipment will have to be procured, installed and checked by August 30 in order to meet the deadline to be used at the next election in November. Mesa County will be responsible for the cost of replacing the decertified equipment. Each voting machine costs over $3,500, a figure that does not include the software needed to run it or the cost of optical scanners, a server to tabulate votes and other equipment.
So far the Mesa County Commissioners have refused to demand Peters step down as County Clerk, despite a long string of errors, gaffes and obvious incompetencies that have undermined public confidence in her office. In 2020, Peters’ office forgot to collect 574 ballots from a ballot box in the 2019 election, and once she found them she never counted them. Also in 2020, Peters was found to have used taxpayer funds to pay for a professional PR project to burnish her image. In January, 2021, Peters tweeted about how easy it was to hack elections. In July of 2020, Peters blurted out her hatred of atheists on social media. In 2020, Peters came under fire for spending over $3,600 to remodel her office.
Commissioner Janet Rowland said she is not considering asking Peters to resign, saying Peters is “innocent until proven guilty.” County citizens attempted to recall Peters in 2020, but fell just short of gathering the 12,000+ signatures needed, and the effort occurred amid the pandemic.
Tina Peters is a Republican.