‘Serious breach’ of voting security at center of investigation of Mesa County clerk’s office
Election workers process ballots at the Arapahoe County Elections Facility in Littleton, on Nov. 3, 2020. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)
The Colorado secretary of state is investigating a potential security breach related to Mesa County’s voting system, Secretary Jena Griswold announced Monday.
Griswold’s office sent an order to Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters requesting an inspection of “election equipment and other relevant materials,” according to a press release from Griswold.
The release says the breach did not occur during an election and “has not created an imminent direct security risk to Colorado elections.” However it described the matter as “a serious breach of voting system security protocols” and a violation of an election rule related to election system user accounts and passwords. Images posted online included Mesa County election system passwords, the release said.
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The Daily Sentinel first reported on the investigation.
The investigation could result in the decertification of Mesa County’s voting system.
A Mesa County voting system password was revealed when conspiracy theorist and QAnon maestro Ron Watkins posted images on Telegram from a “whistleblower,” The Bulwark reported, adding that Watkins’ source was someone in Peters’ office. Peters herself has spread discredited claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
The secretary’s order states that, “The posted images depict the BIOS passwords specific to the individual hardware stations of Mesa County’s voting system. These passwords can only be used physically at a voting system at the Mesa County Clerk’s Office.”
The order says the breach could be a violation of criminal law, and it specifies that “destruction of documents or evidence related to this incident may constitute a criminal act.”
Griswold ordered Peters to allow agents from her office to conduct an inspection of Mesa County voting equipment on Tuesday. She also prohibited anyone, including Peters herself, from using or even touching any component of the county’s voting system without Griswold’s written permission.
Failure to comply with the order, Griswold wrote to Peters, “will, at a minimum, result in the decertification of Mesa County’s voting systems.”
This is not the first time Griswold has investigated Peters. Last year Griswold opened an investigation after the Mesa County clerk failed to count a batch of mail-in ballots found after the November 2019 election.
Republican supporters of former President Donald Trump have persisted in advancing lies about the November election, including about purported vulnerabilities in Dominion Voting Systems, which are used in Mesa County.
Editor’s note: This brief was updated at 1:39 p.m., Aug. 10, 2021, to correct when the uncounted batch of mail-in ballots was found.
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