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Lawsuit seeks to block Mesa County clerk from overseeing 2022 election

Colorado secretary of state says she wants to ensure ‘voters have the elections they deserve’
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters reads first-round election results from the 2020 presidential primary elections at the Mesa County election office in Grand Junction. (McKenzie Lange/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP file)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from having any oversight role in the 2022 election.

The lawsuit comes after Peters, a Republican, refused last week to comply with a list of election security terms from Griswold, a Democrat, ahead of the November contest. The terms included that Peters be accompanied when near any of her county’s voting equipment and that she retract statements in which she “indicated a willingness to compromise Mesa County’s voting system equipment.”

“Every eligible Coloradan – Republican, Democrat and Independent alike – has the right to make their voice heard in safe and secure elections,” Griswold said in a written statement Tuesday. “As Clerk Peters is unwilling to commit to following election security protocols, I am taking action to ensure that Mesa County voters have the elections they deserve.”

A judge barred Peters from having an oversight role in the 2021 election after she was accused of facilitating a security breach of her county’s election system. Peters is under a criminal investigation by local, state and federal authorities, and last week a Mesa County grand jury agreed to begin a probe into allegations of official misconduct against her.

Griswold is seeking to appoint Brandi Bantz, Mesa County’s election director, as the county’s designated election official in November. Griswold says the Mesa County commissioners support the appointment.

Griswold is also seeking to appoint former Secretary of State Wayne Williams and current Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, who are both Republicans, as election supervisors to assist Bantz.

Reiner and Williams helped conduct the 2021 election in Mesa County after Peters was barred from an oversight role.

The lawsuit is the latest escalation of a battle between Peters and Griswold that has been brewing since last summer, when Peters allegedly allowed an unauthorized person to attend a secure Dominion Voting Systems elections software update. Passwords used in the update were then posted online and circulated on a right-wing social media site.

Peters has spread baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and has linked herself to Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who has become one of the nation’s top 2020 election conspiracy theorists.

Peters has announced she is running for re-election in November.

The lawsuit from Griswold was filed in Mesa County District Court. A spokesman for Peters didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

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