Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters speaks during a rally organized by the Truth & Liberty Coalition in support of her. The rally took place on Dec. 1, 2021, in front of the old Mesa County courthouse in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)
In Colorado’s first statewide election recount in about 20 years, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who lost the Republican primary race in June for secretary of state but paid $255,000 to force a recount, was confirmed the loser.
In a race that she lost by more than 88,000 votes, she gained 13 net votes — but the winner of the race, Pam Anderson, also gained 13 net votes. Peters had to pay for the recount herself, because the loss margin was nowhere near close enough to trigger an automatic recount.
The office of Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced the results on the afternoon of the Thursday deadline.
“The recounts are complete and confirm once again that Colorado elections are safe and secure,” Griswold said in a statement. “Accepting the outcome of free and fair elections is a cornerstone of American democracy. Disinformation and frivolous lawsuits do not change the fact that there are winners and losers in an election.”
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Peters, who has promoted election conspiracy theories, is facing a grand jury indictment on felony and misdemeanor charges for her involvement in a security breach in her county’s election office. Though she is the Mesa County clerk, a judge has barred her from overseeing elections.
Clerks throughout the state, most of whom are Republican, handled the recount in “an incredibly professional manner,” Matt Crane, a Republican who serves as the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, told Newsline.
Referring to Peters and a Peters campaign representative, Sherronna Bishop, Crane said Coloradans can trust the recount results “despite some of the noise that continues to come from Tina and Sherronna,” who he said “at this point are carnival barkers.”
Peters reported raising about $519,000 between June 23 and July 27, almost all of it received after her June 28 primary loss as she appealed to donors, notably through a July 25 appearance on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, to fund election recount costs.
Crane said it’s fair to question whether Peters’ true motivation was to raise money for her criminal defense.
“I have wondered about that,” Crane said. “Just this afternoon, she and Sherronna are out there on one of their silly videos, where they’re lying about the process and asking people to continue sending in money. So why, why now?”
I wish people knew that she is not a victim. She is a liar, and she is a predator, coming to them for their money.
– Matt Crane, executive director of Colorado County Clerks Association, about Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters
Whether such expenditures would be legal is a different matter. Peters on Thursday was a guest on Bishop’s “America’s Mom” show, during which they repeated misinformation about elections and asked listeners to visit Peters’ campaign website to donate money.
“The bigger question to me,” Crane said, “(is) why do people continue to give her money? Everything she said about our elections is wrong. And for people that continue to give it, it just makes no sense. I wish they would stop.”
He added about Peters, “She’s very good at playing the victim here. And I wish people knew that she is not a victim. She is a liar, and she is a predator, coming to them for their money. It’s disgusting. I can’t say that clearly enough … She is a predator and a liar.”
Peters is affiliated with a coalition of Republican election-denying candidates from El Paso County who also requested recounts for their local and state races in that county.
Three of those candidates — Peter Lupia, running for El Paso County clerk; Rae Ann Weber, running for El Paso County coroner; and Lynda Zamora Wilson, running for state Senate District 9 — paid for recounts. Election officials Thursday reported no change in the outcome of their races following the recount.
Four more candidates in the group — Lindsay Moore and David Winney, both running for El Paso County commissioner; Summer Groubert, running for state House District 18; and Todd Watkins, running for El Paso County sheriff — failed to pay for a recount.
The coalition members except for Peters filed a lawsuit late last week in El Paso District Court against El Paso Clerk Chuck Broerman and Griswold, claiming that for each of the candidates about half the fee they were required to pay was for a purpose that was “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious.” As part of that suit the plaintiffs asked the judge to stay the recount, but Judge Thomas Kelly Kane on Thursday denied the motion to stay.
The members including Peters on Monday filed a second lawsuit in Denver District Court, also against Broerman and Griswold, that sought to stop the recount in El Paso County and order Broerman, a Republican, to hand over records to Griswold, a Democrat, so that she may conduct the recount.
A third lawsuit was filed by Peters in Denver District Court on Wednesday against Griswold and the county clerks, or top election officials, in all 64 counties in the state. The suit claimed recount procedures violated Colorado law, and it asked the court to halt the recount and order Griswold to take over recount responsibilities for every county, with the process to be paid for out of state and county coffers.
In Elbert County, election officials found 37 ballots they neglected to tally in the primary that they added to recount numbers. Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder told the secretary of state that his office discovered the ballots among a bin of undeliverable ballots after the primary, according to a press release from Griswold’s office. Inclusion of the ballots in the recount netted nine votes for Peters and six for Anderson, and their inclusion in the count did not alter the outcome in any races conducted in Elbert.
Schroeder in January became the subject of an investigation after Griswold accused him of making unauthorized digital copies of his election system computers.
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