Briefline

Election-system hard drive copies turned over to Colorado secretary of state

By: - May 5, 2022 11:55 am

Jena Griswold, the then-Colorado secretary of state-elect, during the Democratic watch party in downtown Denver on Nov. 6, 2018. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Elbert County clerk on Wednesday, in compliance with a court order, delivered to the Colorado secretary of state election-related hard drives and other material the secretary demanded.

The hard drives contain full copies, or “forensic images,” of Elbert County election system hard drives.

Republican Clerk Dallas Schroeder said in court documents that before a state-led election system software update in August 2021 he made the images on an external hard drive to preserve records of the 2020 election, which he claimed the update, known as a “trusted build,” erased. A week later he made a second copy from the first copy. One of the copied hard drives was stored at his office in Kiowa, and the other was stored in an undisclosed location with an unnamed “private attorney.”

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Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, in January opened an investigation into Schroeder’s activities as a potential security breach after learning that Schroeder disclosed in a court document in a different case that he had copied information from the hard drives of Elbert’s Dominion Voting Systems machines. She issued two orders seeking answers from Schroeder concerning the nature of his activities and the security of sensitive election information. The order said that Schroeder’s copies were “unauthorized” and the investigation was meant to determine if he had violated state election rules.

She deemed Schroeder’s response incomplete, in part because he refused to name the private attorney who was in possession of one of the external hard drives, and in February Griswold sued Schroeder in Elbert County District Court to compel him to respond to her orders.

On Friday, the judge, Gary Kramer, ruled in Griswold’s favor and said Schroeder had until 10 p.m. Wednesday to comply with Griswold’s orders.

A spokesperson for Griswold confirmed that her office received material from Schroeder in response to the order, including hard drive copies, the identity of the private attorney, a chain-of-custody log for each hard drive copy, and answers to questions to which Griswold sought answers in the January orders.

Kramer ruled that this material should be “suppressed,” and it is not open to public inspection.

“Clerk Schroeder has submitted the materials as required by the Court’s Order,” spokesperson Annie Orloff said in a statement. “The Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing the information and is in possession of the unauthorized copies made by Clerk Schroeder of Elbert County’s election equipment hard drives. At this time, all information that has been disclosed is under seal as ordered by the court.”

Schroeder was one of two county clerks named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Griswold filed by Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks, an election denier who is running for U.S. Senate this year. The lawsuit claimed that election system software used in Colorado’s 64 counties in 2020 was improperly certified, that the secretary of state’s office illegally destroyed election records, and that Griswold exceeded her authority when in the summer she adopted emergency rules to prevent the kind of election audit then occurring in Arizona, which she deemed illegitimate.

Griswold has also confronted Republican Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican candidate for secretary of state who questions the reliability of elections, over Peters’ alleged role in an election security breach in her Grand Junction office. The secretary is suing to bar Peters from overseeing 2022 election.

Peters was indicted by a grand jury on multiple felony counts in a case that concerns the election security breach.

Claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent or compromised have been debunked by experts, courts and election officials from both parties.

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