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Mesa County commissioners vote to stay with Dominion to replace decertified voting machines

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 13:04:58-04

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Mesa County commissioners voted Tuesday to stay with Dominion Voting Systems to replace the voting machines that were decertified after an alleged security breach.

The unanimous vote to stay with the voting software and hardware company came after about an hour of public comment, which at times became heated.

The overwhelming majority of speakers that participated in the public comment portion of the meeting were in favor of ditching Dominion, many of them citing disproven voter conspiracy theories as the reason to replace the voting company with Clear Ballot, a competing voting software and hardware company, or hand counting.

Despite the contentious meeting, commissioners Janet Rowland, Scott McInnis, and Cody Davis approved the measure to extend the county’s voting system and managed system agreement with Dominion Voting Systems, stating, in part, because of the cost associated with switching to Clear Ballot.

A contract with Clear Ballot would cost the county over $570 thousand for the next two years, as opposed to around $194 thousand to stay with Dominion, commissioners said during the meeting. Another concern for commissioners was an approaching deadline imposed by the secretary of state’s office of Aug. 31, when the county must have new election equipment installed.

“That’s the reality. We have to have something in place,” McInnis said.

The reason for Tuesday’s action by Mesa County commissioners is the result of an alleged security breach of the county’s voting equipment that occurred on or before May 25. Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold decertified the equipment Aug. 12.

Griswold’s office, the FBI and the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office are investigating the potential breach that involved images posted online that showed basic input/output system (BIOS) passwords.

Griswold accused Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters of directing staff to turn off video surveillance of voting equipment before the May software update. Griswold also says Peters allowed a non-employee into the elections office during the highly secure software update. Images of the hard drives were posted online the week of Aug. 9.

The investigation so far found that Belinda Knisley and Sandra Brown, two Mesa County Clerk and Recorder employees, helped Gerald Wood, who does not work for the county, get into the May 25 “trusted build” of the election system “by misrepresenting the individual’s employment status and role,” according to the secretary of state’s office.

Investigators believe that trusted build was where images of the passwords for the voting system were taken, then leaked to others this month. The secretary of state’s office said videos and photos of the passwords were leaked then posted online. That trusted build was limited to Dominion employees, staff with the Department of State, and three people from Mesa County: Peters, Brown and Wood.

Griswold appointed Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner to supervise elections in Mesa County this November, as well as a three-person advisory committee to advise and assist her amid the investigation.

During Tuesday’s meeting, McInnis said Peters has not communicated with commissioners and urged her to, “Come out of hiding. She needs to come back to work.”