Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters accessed elections hard drive, will be replaced

Politics

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder on Aug. 12, 2021 (KREX)

DENVER (KDVR) — The Mesa County elections clerk will be replaced after state investigators linked her to unauthorized access of the county’s elections system, leading secure information to be posted publicly online.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said they confirmed two images posted online “by election conspiracy theorists” appear to “contain copies of the election management software that runs voting system equipment in Mesa County.”

Investigators believe one of the images was taken on May 23. They say on the same evening, “the secure room where this election equipment is stored was accessed” by Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. The unauthorized person who attended the county election system’s software upgrade — a man named Gerald Wood — and another clerk and recorder employee also accessed the room.

The Secretary of State’s Office said they alerted the U.S. Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency about the breach, and they “confirmed that it does not view this breach as a significant heightening of the election risk landscape at this point.”

‘No one person has all the keys to the castle’

The Secretary of State’s Office said Colorado’s elections follow a multi-layered security protocol:

Colorado leads the way in secure elections, and has layers of security measures, both preventative and for detection purposes. This includes restricted access, chain-of-custody logs, equipment that is under lock and key, multiple sets of passwords or keys that no single person holds, and tamper evident seals. Colorado’s election system is also segmented, with each county having its own closed network and systems across counties are not connected to one another. Election systems have separate sets of passwords; one set is only held by a few specific civil servants with the Department of State and the other is held by the county officials. No one person has all the keys to the castle, as there are several passwords that are kept separate and protected by separate parties. Should there be an internal security breach like the one that occurred in Mesa County, in addition to the safeguards outlined prior to an election, Colorado also requires security protocols such as bipartisan testing on election equipment like tabulation machines before and after elections, mail ballot signature verification, and bipartisan risk limiting audits.

Secretary of State’s Office, press release, Aug. 16, 2021

Last week, Secretary of State Jena Griswold prohibited Mesa County’s election equipment from any further use. Separate investigations are underway into the county’s Clerk and Recorder’s Office: one led by Griswold’s office and another one led by the 21st Judicial District Attorney.

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