Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit today asking a judge to remove Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters as Designated Election Official (DEO) for the county. The suit asks for Wayne Williams to be appointed as the DEO and Sheila Reiner be appointed Director of Elections for Mesa County. Sheila will apparently replace Brandi Bantz, who was Director of Elections for Mesa County according to her LinkedIn page. Bantz was the fourth Director of Elections Peters hired during her tenure.
A press release said the SOS was acting quickly because time is short before the November elections. It also said that the legal action “is necessary because although the Secretary of State’s Office can require supervision of a county clerk’s conduct, it cannot remove a sitting county clerk from acting as the Designated Election Official.” The suit asks a judge to remove Peters.
The press release says the state is seeking to “legally bar Peters from serving as DEO, as she is not fit to serve as the DEO after allowing breaches to election security protocol.”
What’s the difference between a DEO and a DOE?
It’s a fine line to try to understand the difference between a “Designated Election Official” (DEO) and a “Director of Elections” (DoE). Apparently “Director of Elections” is responsible for the preparation and conduct of all county elections, and overseeing all logistics and operations involved in the election process in accordance with federal, state, and local statutes and rules. “Director of Elections” is not a named position found anywhere in Colorado’s official rules governing elections (pdf), but “Designated Election Official” is mentioned 115 times in the same 170 page document. The duties of a Designated Election Official are vast and include certifying measures to be on the ballot, assigning ballot measures final letters and numbers, checking ballots for layout, programming and printing errors, sealing and storing returned ballots and envelopes securely until counting, posting required signage at polling places, positioning voting equipment, voting booths and ballot boxes so election watchers have a clear view of them, and many other duties.
Since the Mesa County Commissioners sought to appoint Wayne Williams as the county’s DEO at their meeting on Tuesday, August 17th, it is unclear if they will still have any grounds to pursue a lawsuit to push Williams’ appointment, since the SOS’s lawsuit seeks to do exactly that.
A source familiar with the lawsuit said the SOS’s lawsuit is intended to minimize conflict while focusing on officially removing Tina Peters from overseeing any elections. The Mesa County Commissioners were intent on setting up a fight with the Secretary of State over who would serve as DEO, and Commissioner Scott McInnis said they were “prepared to stand tough” on the decision, but there may be nothing left to “stand tough” on now, so the Commissioners may have to find something else to fight the Secretary of State over now.