DENVER (KDVR/AP) — Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is trying to get a judge to remove Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from the position of Designated Election Official for the 2022 elections.
The Democrat filed a lawsuit to bar Peters from the elections following an FBI investigation into an alleged breach of elections equipment in Mesa County in May 2021.
“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. “I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”
Peters allegedly refused to certify under penalty of perjury that she would comply with the security protocols as the Mesa County DEO after Griswold issued official documents for her to sign on Jan. 10.
Under Colorado law, neither Griswold nor the county is able to remove a sitting county clerk from serving as a county’s DEO, which is why a lawsuit has been filed.
Griswold successfully sued to have Peters and a deputy, Belinda Knisley, prohibited from administering the November 2021 midterm election, even though Peters denies any wrongdoing.
Knisley was suspended and charged with felony second-degree burglary and a cybercrime misdemeanor count by the Mesa County district attorney.
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 Trump, were secure and accurate.
FBI search of Peters’ home
An FBI-led law enforcement task force searched four western Colorado locations, including Peters’ home, in November 2021 as part of the investigation into fraudulent activity.
“The FBI raided my home at 6 a.m. this morning, accusing me of committing a crime,” Peters said. “And they raided the homes of my friends, mostly older women. I was terrified.”
Colorado Politics reported that Peters first commented about the searches during an appearance on an online channel operated by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO and a supporter of Peters and former President Donald Trump who has repeatedly made discredited claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Peters added that authorities “used a battering ram,” destroying the front door of one of her friends’ homes.
Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Attorney General Phil Weiser issued a statement confirming that Peters’ home was searched and disputed claims by a legal defense fund for Peters that authorities used excessive force during the operation.
“At no time was force used on Ms. Peters or her home. Ms. Peters was allowed to move around her home and fix herself breakfast while agents gathered items before departing,” Rubinstein and Weiser said.
Previous lawsuit filed by Griswold against Peters
Griswold sued to remove Peters as county clerk and recorder after Griswold said 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, 2021 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 nonemployee into the room.
After Griswold filed the lawsuit, Peters was absent from Colorado for several weeks, only appearing publicly in broadcasts hosted by Lindell. Peters claimed that Griswold’s investigation is an attempt to take over one of the few remaining conservative counties in Colorado.
Griswold’s suggested replacements
The lawsuit filing requests the appointment of Brandi Bantz as the DEO for the 2022 Mesa County primary and general elections. Griswold also said that she will appoint former Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) and current Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner (R) as election supervisors to provide expertise and assistance.