DENVER – Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to block Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing the 2022 elections.
The lawsuit was filed after Peters last week said she would not comply with Griswold’s conditions that were laid out so Peters could again oversee elections. In a news conference last week, she also refused to go back on unsubstantiated election fraud claims she has made and said she would seek reelection.
Peters now faces a Mesa County grand jury investigation into allegations she tampered with county election equipment and committed official misconduct after the county’s election system was compromised and images of hard drives were put onto election conspiracy theory websites last year.
The suit filed in Mesa County District Court seeks to remove Peters as the county’s Designated Election Official for 2022 and appoint Brandi Bantz, the current Mesa County Director of Elections and a former senior elections specialist in El Paso County, as the new Designated Election Official for this year.
There will be primary and general elections this spring and fall, and this year’s November ballot will include most of the statewide offices that were elected in 2018.
If the lawsuit is successful, it would be the second time Peters has been removed as the Designated Election Official. Peters can only be removed from her position as clerk through a recall. That ruling is in effect until all 2021 election activities are finished, which is expected next month, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Wayne Williams, the former Republican secretary of state, is currently the Designated Election Official and was appointed by Mesa County commissioners ahead of last year’s elections. Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner was named the election supervisor for the 2021 election.
The secretary of state’s office said if the newly filed lawsuit is successful, Williams and Reiner – both Republicans – would again be appointed as election supervisors to assist Bantz. The move has the support of Mesa County commissioners, Griswold’s office said.
“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,” Griswold said in a statement. “I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”
During hearings over Democratic-led resolutions to press Congress to uphold voting rights by passing legislation, Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, proposed an amendment “to offer support” to the under-investigation Peters and to “urge the decertification of election results” in states where enough has been found to change the election outcome in Trump’s favor – which is in zero states.
“I think the showing of today from the legislature does show that the Big Lie is growing bigger, it’s here in Colorado, it’s across the nation. And its intent is to suppress the vote, chip away at confidence, and undermine election infrastructure,” Griswold said in an interview.
Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie J. Robison found last October, when Peters was first prohibited from participating in the 2021 election, that Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley committed a breach and neglect of their duties and were unable or unwilling to perform their duties as Designated Election Official.
A Department of State investigation found that Knisley and another county clerk’s employee helped a man named Gerald Wood get into a May 25 “trusted build” of the county’s Dominion election system by misrepresenting his role. Investigators believe that is where the images of the passwords were taken.
In August, the secretary of state’s office said Peters and two other people went into a secure room where Mesa County’s voting equipment is kept two days before an upgrade and copied hard drive images of election management software.
On Aug. 2, video of the trusted build and the passwords for the voting system were posted on Telegram and right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, and the hard drive image copies were posted online a week later while Peters was at Mike Lindell’s symposium.
Peters said last week that the newly formed grand jury investigation would prove her innocence.
“I’ve never done anything wrong, and it’s going to show that,” she said.