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Colorado Secretary of State files lawsuit to bar Mesa County Clerk from overseeing 2022 Elections

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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold proceeded with a lawsuit to bar Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from overseeing the 2022 elections. The lawsuit asks a judge to remove Peters as the Designated Election Official (DEO) during 2022.

In the filing, the Secretary of State’s office requests the Court to appoint Brandi Bantz as the DEO for Mesa County to ensure the smooth and secure operations of the 2022 Primary and General elections. Both the Mesa County Commissioners and the Secretary of State’s office support the appointment of Bantz. The Secretary announced that she will also then appoint former Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) and current Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner (R) as election supervisors to provide expertise and assistance to Ms. Bantz as needed.

“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,” said Secretary Griswold. “I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”

This legal action follows the refusal of Peters to certify under penalty of perjury that she would comply with the security protocols as the Mesa County DEO. On January 10, 2022, Secretary Griswold issued an Election Order and accompanying Certification and Attestation of Compliance requiring Clerk Peters to certify, within 72 hours, under penalty of perjury that she would comply with election related security protocols. Clerk Peters declined to sign the Certification and Attestation of Compliance.

Neither the Secretary of State nor the county is authorized under Colorado law to remove a sitting county clerk from serving as a county’s DEO, so this legal action is necessary. As was the case last fall, the Secretary has asked the Mesa County District Court to exercise the Court’s authority to assign the DEO responsibilities. A DEO is the person responsible for running elections for a local government, like a municipality or a county. They make determinations regarding elections issues for their municipality or county.  The Secretary of State does have the authority to appoint election supervisors.

Williams currently serves as DEO, and was appointed as such when Mesa County Court Judge Robison ruled in favor of barring Tina Peters from 2021 election oversight as DEO after she allowed breaches to election security, disregarded election rules and orders of the Secretary of State, and risked the integrity of Mesa county elections. The Court’s decision legally barred Peters from serving as DEO until the completion of all 2021 election related activities. That completion is expected to be reached sometime in early February.

Last October, Judge Robison made specific findings that Clerk Peters’ actions allowed a “security vulnerability” to be created with Mesa County’s voting system equipment; that Clerk Peters had been “untruthful with the Secretary and her staff,” that Clerk Peters “failed to follow the rules and orders of the Secretary,” that Clerk Peters had “failed to take adequate precautions to ensure that confidential information would be protected,” and that in light of the uncontroverted factual record, Clerk Peters had breached her duties, neglected her duties, and committed other wrongful acts sufficient to justify her removal as the Designated Election Official for Mesa County. 

Clerk Peters’ actions constituted one of the nation’s first insider threats where an official, elected to uphold free, fair, and secure selections risked the integrity of the election system in an effort to prove unfounded conspiracy theories.

Bantz has worked in Colorado elections for over 20 years, including serving as the Director of Elections in Mesa County since May of 2020 and serving under then Clerk Wayne Williams in El Paso County for four years as a Senior Elections Specialist.