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‘Serious breach’ of voting security reported in Mesa County

Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to investigate
Ballots at the Durango post office for an election in 2019. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

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 news 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.

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 says, “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 in the presidential primary 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.

To read more stories from Colorado Newsline, visit www.coloradonewsline.com.