DENVER – The Elbert County clerk gave copies of election system hard drive images to two attorneys, one of whom has not been identified, according to a court filing in response to questions from Colorado’s secretary of state about how and why the copies were made in the first place last summer.
Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office said those hard drive images are now in the hands of “unauthorized people” as the investigation into Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder continues.
“My office is reviewing the information received about the copying of Elbert County’s voting equipment hard drives,” Griswold said in a statement. “We are continuing to investigate, and will determine any additional steps required.”
The Secretary of State’s Office earlier this week ordered Schroeder, a Republican, to testify at a deposition and separately to answer questions about how he allegedly made the copy of the county’s voting system hard drives on Aug. 26 last year ahead of a trusted build to ready the machine for the 2021 election.
In an affidavit filed earlier this month, Schroeder said he “made a forensic image of everything on the election server” ahead of a “trusted build” of the county’s election system ahead of the 2021 election. He also said he wanted to make another forensic image after the trusted build to be sure no election records from 2020 were destroyed.
Griswold’s office said earlier this week Schroeder did not comply with requests for information on how the hard drive was copied and last week ordered him to respond to questions within 48 hours.
In a Jan. 24 filing in Denver District Court as part of a lawsuit filed by Schroeder, Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Fremont County, and Douglas County Clerk Merlin Klotz, among others, in November against Griswold, attorney John Case sent responses to the questions from the secretary of state’s office sent to Schroeder last week. Griswold’s office said it was provided those answers on Thursday.
According to the filing by Case, Schroeder copied images of the election server hard drives, two image cast central computers and the adjudication computer to an external hard drive – using a high-speed hard drive imaging machine.
There with Schroeder that day, according to Case’s filling, were election manager Rhonda Braun and Elbert County clerk and recorder employee Amanda Moore.
Two others not employed by the clerk and recorder’s office gave Schroeder instructions over the phone on how to make the hard drive images. They were identified in the filling as Shawn Smith and Mark Cook, though no other information about their connection to Schroeder was released.
Case’s filing says that Schroeder “does not recall anyone asking him to make an image of the server” and that Schroeder believed he was copying the hard drive images as part of records preservation ahead of the trusted build.
The document says the images were kept on an external hard drive “under lock and key in the election office.” But on Sept. 2, Schroeder made another copy of the images, according to the filing, and delivered it to the unidentified “private attorney.”
“Dallas Schroeder delivered the second external hard drive to a private attorney (not John Case), who promised to safeguard the evidence,” the filing says. “The purpose of making the second copy was to prevent the loss of 2020 election records, in case the first external hard drive was damaged by fire or flood, or if the secretary of state or other third parties seized the first external hard drive, as happened to election equipment in Mesa County.”
Case’s filing claims the original copy was kept “under lock and key” until Jan. 22, when Schroeder gave it to Case.
It also says that Schroeder would comply with orders to turn on all video surveillance of the election systems 24/7 and to have at least one authorized person accompany anyone accessing any room where voting equipment is stored.
But that filing and the responses within drew more questions from Griswold and her office. She issued a new order Thursday saying the response from Case “presents potential evidence of additional violations of election security.”
The new order says the Department of State has no information that either Case or the unnamed attorney have authorization to access any parts of the voting system, and ordered Schroeder to provide information establishing that they are authorized.
If he cannot, he is ordered to retake possession of the hard drive image copies and put them in a secure location with evidence tamper seals.
The order further says Schroeder has to provide information on how he knows the images haven’t been accessed by or given to anyone else. And he is required to give the device used to copy the information to the Department of State.
Griswold also sent Schroeder a host of new questions he will be required to answer, including some about the people involved in the copying of the hard drives, chain of custody logs for the first copy that was made, and copies of all communication with Smith, Cook “and any other persons involved in the planning and imaging of voting systems components, and the subsequent storage, maintenance, examination, or copies of those images.”
Griswold’s order requests those answers within 48 hours of Thursday. Schroeder is already set to be deposed on Feb. 7.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said earlier this week it does not believe any potential image of the hard drive “created an imminent or direct security risk to Colorado’s elections.”
The orders from Griswold’s office come as Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters stands accused of helping a non-election worker copy Mesa County’s voting system hard drive as well. She currently is under investigation by a grand jury in Mesa County, was barred by Griswold from overseeing the 2021 election, and Griswold is seeking the same for the 2022 elections.