‘Worrisome’ letter defending Tina Peters sent to Colorado county clerks
Mailing comes amid escalation of conspiracists’ targeting of election officials
A ballot box stands outside the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library on Welton Street in Denver on June 17, 2020. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)
Multiple county clerks in Colorado recently received a letter that they found alarming because of its tone and due to the context of intensifying efforts by activists who say, despite the absence of evidence, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
The one-page letter, dated Aug. 27, is typed, and, at least for some of the recipients, a handwritten portion is added at the bottom.
“We the people of Colorado aren’t taking it anymore — You work for us!” reads the handwritten line at the bottom of the letter received at the office of Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell. “Chaffee County may be next!”
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Mitchell told Newsline that the warning, in the context of the rest of the letter, might refer to a potential that her office, like the clerk’s office in Mesa County, could be investigated by the secretary of state.
“But it’s hard to know because, after all we’ve been through, it’s just worrisome,” Mitchell said.
Earlier in the summer, in response to mounting threats directed at Mitchell, she had bulletproof infrastructure installed in her Salida offices.
In recent days, at Mitchell’s request, agents with the Department of Homeland Security conducted a physical security assessment at the clerk’s office, where 10 people work, and she plans to make improvements based on the agents’ advice.
The typed section of the letter, which is identical in the versions viewed by Newsline, discusses Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s investigation into an election-system security breach in the office of Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. Mesa County election-system hard drive images were copied and released to conspiracy theorists with alleged participation by Peters. Staff from Griswold’s office visited the clerk’s office last month to investigate the breach, and the FBI and Mesa County district attorney are conducting a related criminal investigation.
The letter refers to the visit as “raids,” and it defends Peters, saying she did nothing wrong. Griswold is using a “‘Gestapo Standard’ of election intimidation” on behalf of a “tyrannical, weaponized government,” it says.
“Enough. There is no more time nor reason to tolerate or negotiate with tyrants,” the letter ends, adding a demand that Griswold resign.
Carly Koppes, the Republican clerk and recorder for Weld County and president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, also received a version of the letter. The handwritten portion of Koppes’ letter says “We the people” don’t want voting machines touched or loaded with new software, and it ends, “You may be next!”
Koppes said the meaning of that line is ambiguous, but taken with other threats to her office since the November election it’s notable.
“Some of my colleagues have received much worse than I have,” Koppes said.
Koppes, who was born and raised in Weld County, began working in the clerk and recorder’s office in 2004. Elections in her experience didn’t used to be so confrontational. “In my 17 years I have never seen anything like this,” she said.
Some of the letters appear to be signed by “Katherine Hawkins” and feature a similar style of cursive handwriting. Other clerks who reportedly received a version of the letter include those in Park and Baca counties. Colorado County Clerks Association spokesperson Michele Ames said that to her knowledge “a majority of the clerks in the state” received a version of the letter.
Its distribution appears to be part of a strategy by election conspiracists that involves “ramping up their efforts to pressure clerks,” Ames said.
I have no doubt it will escalate.
– Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell
Since he lost the election to President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump has claimed without evidence that the election was fraudulent. Some activists in Colorado, such as those associated with U.S. Election Integrity Plan, have sought to prove that election systems in Colorado are vulnerable to tampering and fraud, though their claims amount mainly to innuendo, and the most serious actual breach is the one allegedly committed with the help of the Republican Peters. USEIP volunteers have reportedly gone door-to-door in multiple counties asking individual voters to verify their participation in the election. Election-fraud activists have pressured Colorado county clerks to conduct audits of the election.
Clerks expect such pressure to worsen as the next statewide election, on Nov. 2, approaches.
“I have no doubt it will escalate,” Mitchell said. “Clerks are trying to stay positive, check in with each other, offer support when they can.”
Mitchell has worked in the clerk’s office since 2011 and has been clerk since 2014. Like Knoppes, she said she has “absolutely not” seen anything like the recent attacks on elections officials before.
“It just takes a toll on you, because you’re worried about your staff,” she said. “You’re just worried about them feeling safe at work and you’re worried about everybody’s safety for real.”
A lot of her staff are longtime members of the community, she said.
“We’re just trying to do our jobs, our professional jobs, and help people interact with their government, and it’s like we’re just turned into the enemy all of a sudden,” she said.
Mitchell is up for reelection next year. Asked how she feels about remaining in office after the threats she’s experienced, she said, “I’m going to fight like hell and I’m going to win again … I have a job to do and I’m going to do it, and I’m going to run the best campaign I can, and I’m going to win.”
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