Briefline

Elbert County clerk alleged to have given election system hard drive copies to unauthorized people

By: - January 28, 2022 2:02 pm

Election workers process ballots at the Arapahoe County Elections Facility in Littleton, on Nov. 3, 2020. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Elbert County Clerk and Recorder Dallas Schroeder admitted that he made copies of his office’s hard drives and that two unauthorized lawyers also have copies, Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced Friday.

Griswold’s office is now demanding more information about the copies and requiring Schroeder to repossess them for inspection. She issued a new order for that information on Thursday.

“My office is reviewing the information received about the copying of Elbert County’s voting equipment hard drives,” Griswold said in a press release. “We are continuing to investigate, and will determine any additional steps required. As Secretary of State, I will ensure that every Republican, Democrat, and Unaffiliated voter has access to secure and safe elections.”

Because the copies were made before a “trusted build,” which updated Elbert County’s election system, Griswold does not believe there is a threat to election security in the county.

Griswold opened an investigation into the Republican clerk’s behavior on Jan. 19 after he failed to respond to multiple requests for information. Schroeder provided answers on Jan. 27, where he said he removed hard drives from Elbert County’s election server and other computers to make copies. Schroeder’s response, filed by attorney John Case, notes that this took place on Aug. 26 last year and that he was accompanied by election manager Rhonda Braun and another Elbert County employee.

Sean Smith and Mark Cook gave Schroeder instructions over the phone while he made the copies, according to Schroder’s response — “Sean Smith” named in the response is a typo for Shawn Smith.  Griswold’s new order names “Shawn Smith,” and he confirmed to Colorado Newsline that he was on the phone with Schroeder.

Smith is a Colorado Springs-based activist who has pushed misinformation that the 2020 election was stolen and frequently claims that elections are not secure in Colorado. He is involved with the Colorado-based U.S. Election Integrity Plan and is president of the new Cause of America, a group funded by Mike Lindell that works on “election integrity” efforts across the country.

Shawn Smith, who rejects the results of the 2020 election, speaks during a rally organized by the Truth & Liberty Coalition in support of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters. The rally took place on Dec. 1, 2021, in front of the old Mesa County courthouse in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)

Schroeder told a Colorado Newsline journalist in August that Smith challenged him on 2020 election integrity in Elbert County in the spring of 2021. Those concerns and conversations with other constituents prompted Schroeder to order a recount. That recount showed that there weren’t any issues in the county’s voting system.

About a week after Schroeder’s interview with Newsline, he made copies of the hard drive with Smith instructing him over the phone.

In his response to Griswold, Schroeder said that he didn’t recall someone asking him to copy the server ahead of an Aug. 27 trusted build. He was unsure if the update would alter the records from November 2020 and wanted to preserve the data.

“Plaintiff had many discussions with constituents about election security. He believes that he has a statutory duty to preserve election records for 25 months after an election. This duty includes preserving electronic election records that are stored on the server,” his response reads.

Schroeder said he made two copies of the hard drive. He immediately gave one to an unnamed private attorney to safeguard and kept the second at his office. On Jan. 22, he gave that hard drive to Case.

Those two copies are in custody of “unauthorized people in violation of Election Rules,” according to Griswold, prompting further investigation. Griswold is seeking more information about the device used to make the copies and communications between Schroeder and the other people involved.

Griswold’s office is also working with the attorney general’s office on this case.

Schroeder is in his second term as clerk and recorder. Neither Schroeder nor his attorney responded to a request for comment Friday morning.

Schroeder has until Saturday to respond to Griswold’s new order.

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters is also under investigation by multiple parties about her conduct ahead of a trusted build. She was barred from overseeing the 2021 election, and Griswold is attempting to prevent her from overseeing the 2022 election as well.

SoS Election Order 2022-04 (1-27-2022)

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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