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Judge bars Mesa County clerk from overseeing 2022 elections

It’s the second consecutive year Tina Peters won’t be allowed to oversee voting
Tina Peters during the GOP assembly at the Broadmoor World Arena on April 9 in Colorado Springs. (Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun file)

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters won’t be allowed to oversee the 2022 elections, the second consecutive year a judge ruled in favor of Secretary of State Jena Griswold who sued to prohibit Peters’ involvement.

Peters, who is running for the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is accused of a security breach of the Mesa County elections system that occurred in May 2021 and was discovered in August. She was indicted by a grand jury earlier this year on 10 counts in connection with the breach, which resulted in passwords and software being displayed on the Internet.

“The court’s decision today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible elections they deserve,” Griswold said in a statement.

The order also bars Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley and Julie Fisher, second deputy clerk, from involvement in the 2022 elections. Knisley was also indicted by the grand jury, and was charged with felony burglary before that on suspicion of entering county offices after the county suspended her.

Griswold filed a civil lawsuit in January and was later joined by the Mesa County commissioners, claiming that Peters, Knisley and Fisher should be barred from involvement in the elections because of allegations of security breaches. In August, Griswold sued to strip Peters of her duties in the 2021 election.

Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie Robison ruled that Griswold demonstrated “that Peters and Knisley have committed a neglect of duty and are unable to perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official.”

Robison appointed Brandi Bantz, the county elections director, to oversee this year’s elections. Bantz joined the Mesa County office in 2020, and worked for former Secretary of State Wayne Williams when he was clerk in El Paso County. Williams helped oversee the 2021 Mesa County elections, which required costly replacement of the voting equipment that had been tampered with.

Peters’ campaign is based on disproved allegations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. But she’s leading two other candidates in fundraising. She’ll appear at a forum in Lakewood on Thursday with former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson and Mike O’Donnell, a former director of an Eastern Plains nonprofit.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.