The Mesa County Commission will replace 41 pieces of election equipment that were compromised during an alleged security breach — the latest in a saga that includes a pillow salesman, County Clerk Tina Peters in hiding and QAnon.
The all-Republican commission voted 3-0 to replace its Dominion Voting Systems hardware during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon and extended the county’s contract with Dominion through 2029 at a cost of $825,281.
Thirty-four Mesa County residents spoke to the commission before the vote and all opposed the Dominion contract, quoting from the Declaration of Independence and Scripture as they urged the commission to choose a different equipment company or use hand counts instead of Dominion.
“I find it downright appalling that you are even considering Dominion and their minions,” Diana Larson of Grand Junction said.
“Don’t do this,” Shelley Lucas of Grand Junction said. “Please don’t do this. I pray to God that he gives you the strength to do the right thing.”
The alleged security breach has turned Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican, into a hero among far-right followers of former President Donald Trump who believe Dominion machines changed vote tallies in the 2020 election and robbed Trump of the presidency. Public speakers during the meeting repeated those conspiracy theories, with some even threatening to vote out any commissioners who approved the contract extension.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, on the other hand, considers Peters to be a rogue clerk who jeopardized the security of election equipment and forced Tuesday’s vote.
Peters has been traveling outside Mesa County since Aug. 10, when she flew to a conspiracy theory symposium in South Dakota hosted by Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and an election conspiracist. He then arranged for her to stay in Texas but she moved last week after Lindell’s security team leaked details of her whereabouts, he told Vice News.
On Monday, she was interviewed for Lindell’s online show.
“When they decertified my machines — my Dominion machines — I went, ‘Oh, good. That’s great. We will just hand-count the votes (in November).’ Well, they decided to bring in more Dominion machines,” Peters said.
It’s not clear where Peters is now, but she may not be there for long. The clerk told Lindell on Monday that she believes her hotel room was burglarized and Lindell said, “I guess we’re going to have to get you moved again.” He vowed to arrange for private security as well.
It’s also not clear who’s paying for the arrangements; Colorado elected officials cannot receive gifts worth more than $65.
During the hourlong interview on LindellTV.com, Peters said she has doubts that elections in Mesa County, which she has overseen since 2018, were accurately tallied because Republicans won by modest margins in some elections: “Even though we’re a conservative county and we won in certain instances, it wasn’t by as much as we should have.”
The actions of Peters and her office are under investigation by the FBI, Mesa County district attorney’s office and Colorado secretary of state’s office. The latter believes Peters allowed an unauthorized man named Gerald Wood to access a secure area at the county election office on May 25 and that the breach led to election equipment passwords being posted online Aug. 2 by Ron Watkins, a leading figure in the QAnon conspiracy theory. Peters denied that Monday.
“I did not post and I did not authorize anyone to post any election data or software or passwords online,” she told Liddell. Peters acknowledged that surveillance cameras were turned off before the breach but said state law does not require them to be on until 60 days before an election.
Peters also admitted taking a photo of election equipment hard drives. The secretary of state’s office alleged last week it occurred on a Sunday evening, May 25, after the clerk’s office was closed. Images from the county’s hard drives were later displayed at Liddell’s conspiracy theory event.
“I’m wondering what they’re hiding. These are the people’s records. These are the people of Mesa County, they deserve to know what’s in those machines,” Peters said Monday. “I just wonder what they’re hiding, for them to blow up at (me) just taking a photo of their system.”
Griswold has determined that Peters cannot be trusted to supervise fall elections in Mesa County, when residents will vote on ballot measures and local elected offices.
Griswold appointed Peters’ Republican predecessor, Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, to oversee the county’s elections on a temporary basis; she cannot replace Peters for good herself.
Meanwhile, the county commission, which believes it has the sole authority to appoint a supervisor, has chosen former Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
Commissioners said Tuesday that Reiner and Williams are working together well. Peters alleged Monday that Reiner “has a history of liberalism and opposition to” her but did not weigh in on Williams, who is also a Republican.
The clerk said she doesn’t “know that much about computers” but believes Dominion machines can be hacked online (Colorado-based Dominion denies this) and that she is being punished for trying to make Mesa County elections more transparent.
“The way I feel right now is that the robber has come into my house and he’s still there,” she said.
Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis, a Republican, asked members of the public who know Peters to urge her to return to work.
“Call Tina, tell her to come out of hiding,” he said Tuesday. “Tell her to come home.”
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