Briefline

Here’s what alleged Elbert County election security breach accomplices were texting

By: - September 13, 2022 4:30 am

Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroder speaks at the county fairgrounds on Aug. 18, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

“You are rocking it!”

That’s what Mark Cook texted to Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder at 7:50 p.m., Aug. 26, 2021, as Schroeder neared completion of making what the Colorado secretary of state says were unauthorized copies of his own election system hard drives.

In a series of texts, Cook, along with fellow Colorado election denier Shawn Smith, coached the Republican Schroeder through the process of making “forensic images” of the hard drives. The texts became an exhibit in a lawsuit filed by Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold, when she sought to compel Schroeder to cooperate with her investigation into the alleged security breach. The texts were not available to the public, but Newsline this week obtained a copy of the exhibit through a public information request to the court.

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The texts begin at 4:04 p.m. on the evening before state election officials undertook a “trusted build,” or secure software update, of Elbert’s Dominion Voting Systems election machines.

“Getting ready to set things up,” Schroeder texted Cook and Smith, whose text group was named “Team Backup.”

Most of the interaction occurred between Cook and Schroeder. At first Cook walked Schroeder through how to copy two hard drives on a Logicube Forensic Falcon-NEO imager device. Schroeder confirmed to Cook that he removed the two drives from a server.

Cook cautioned, “Be sure to get them back in the same place hooked up to the same cables.”

“Right,” Schroeder responded.

A sampling of the text exchange between Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder, Shawn Smith and Mark Cook, from Aug. 26, 2021, as Smith and Cook aided Schroeder in making copies of his election system hard drives. Schroeder later told a court that he deleted one of the messages because it contained a vulgarity. (Screenshot from a court exhibit)

At one point, autocorrect caused confusion when Schroeder began referring to “Logical” instead of Logicube.

“I don’t understand,” Cook texted. “What does logical plugged mean?”

Cook described step-by-step how Schroeder should complete the imaging of the two drives. Then he texted, “if you are comfortable, Since the case is open, it would be ideal to have photos of the inside, and drives, so we know if they made or make config changes,” presumably referring to state personnel.

Schroeder indicated that he took the photos.

Cook then said to Schroeder, “if you want to take a backup of any other systems after this one, you have plenty of disk space to do that.”

“Ok,” Schroeder responded. They settled on copying Elbert’s ImageCast Central ballot scanner and tabulator. Smith had joined the discussion and, alluding to a suspicion he has commonly expressed that bad actors can hack into election systems, he texted, “FYI: Elbert’s ICCs were ordered with Intel wifi/BT modems, and they’re registered in Australia.”

“WTF!” Cook wrote. This is followed by a deleted message.

In a June 6 document filed with the court as part of the Griswold lawsuit, Schroeder appears to explain this deletion.

“During the text exchange, I deleted one vulgar comment as soon as I read it,” Schroeder wrote.

As justification for imaging the ICC, Cook texted, “without a backup of those, there would be no way to prove if someone came in wirelessly through those cards.”

Smith then texted instructions to Schroeder on how to get inside the ICC machine, which involved prying open the back cover.

“Got all that but the prying part,” Schroeder texted back. “Really don’t want to break it.”

He later reported success, and at 9:15 p.m. he texted, “Securing disk, putting everything back together and going home. Thanks for the support.”

Cook asked if he was taking the disk with him “in case of natural disaster at the office?”

The last text in the exhibit is Schroeder’s response: “It will be well secured.”

When the court later ordered Schroeder to deliver the hard drive copies he made to the secretary of state, the seal on a metal box that contained one of the copies was broken.

Smith, who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, is among the most prominent Colorado-based election deniers. He heads the national “election integrity” nonprofit Cause of America, which is funded by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a prolific conspiracy theorist and ally of “big lie” originator former President Donald Trump.

Cook, a Lakewood resident, is a Smith associate who has long been involved in “election integrity” activities in Colorado and nationally.

The alleged security breach in Elbert’s election system was similar to the security breach in Mesa County, where Republican Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters facilitated the creation of election system hard drive copies. Sensitive information from Mesa’s system was released publicly, and she is facing felony charges in that case.

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