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Officials weary as Mesa election breach probe continues

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Posted at 5:19 AM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 07:26:41-05

DENVER (AP) — Mesa County has been in the national spotlight since last summer when security information from the county’s voting machines was leaked to a right wing website.

Colorado Public Radio reports the fallout is still ongoing.

It's complicating life for elected officials on the Western Slope and raising the question of who will oversee next year’s election.

Investigators say Mesa’s Clerk and Recorder, Republican Tina Peters, let an unauthorized person access the voting machines and be present for a secure software system update.

The FBI is assisting the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office in its investigation of the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office to determine if any federal crimes were committed, a spokesperson confirmed to Denver7 in August.

The following month, the 21st Judicial District Attorney's Office announced that Mesa County Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley faces a felony burglary and misdemeanor cybercrime charge in connection to the investigations into election security breaches. Knisley faces charges of second-degree burglary of a building, a class 4 felony, and cybercrime — unauthorized access, a class 2 misdemeanor. A lawsuit filed earlier that week by Secretary of State Jena Griswold says Knisley was suspended with pay by the county’s human resources director on Aug. 23.

Knisley and Peters were sued by Griswold and a Mesa County elector on Monday as Griswold seeks to remove Peters as the county’s designated election official and to bar her and Knisley from any oversight or involvement with this November’s election.

A court banned Peters from overseeing the recent November elections, but it’s unclear if she will be allowed to oversee the upcoming midterm elections.

In November, a multiagency task force executed search warrants at four locations in western Colorado amid the ongoing investigation.