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Secretary of State sues to bar Mesa County Clerk from overseeing 2022 elections

The legal action comes after Tina Peters failed to sign a document stating she would comply with election security-related protocols.

MESA COUNTY, Colo. — Colorado's Secretary of State (SOS) filed a lawsuit Tuesday to bar Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters from overseeing the 2022 elections, a release from her office says.

The lawsuit asks a judge to remove Peters as the Designated Election Official (DEO) during 2022.

Peters is under investigation for breaching her own voting system security to leak files to fellow conspiracy theorists. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein recently announced that a grand jury in Mesa County has accepted the case and will assist in the ongoing investigation into the allegations, which has been underway for several months.

In the court filing, Jenna Griswold's office requests the Court to appoint Brandi Bantz as the DEO for Mesa County to ensure the smooth and secure operations of the 2022 Primary and General elections.

Both the Mesa County Commissioners and the Secretary of State’s office support the appointment of Bantz, the release from the SOS says. 

RELATED: As Peters announces reelection bid, prosecutors announce grand jury investigation

Bantz has worked in Colorado elections for over 20 years, including serving as the Director of Elections in Mesa County since May of 2020 and serving under then Clerk Wayne Williams in El Paso County for four years as a Senior Elections Specialist.

Griswold, a Democrat, said she will also appoint former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, and current Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, also a Republican as election supervisors to provide expertise and assistance to Bantz as needed.

“Every eligible Coloradan – Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike – has the right to make their voice heard in safe and secure elections," Griswold 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. I will continue to provide the support and oversight needed to ensure the integrity of Colorado’s elections.”

RELATED: FBI raids home of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters in election data breach investigation

This legal action follows the refusal of Peters to certify under penalty of perjury that she would comply with the security protocols as the Mesa County DEO.

On Jan. 10, Griswold issued an Election Order and accompanying Certification and Attestation of Compliance requiring Clerk Peters to certify, within 72 hours, under penalty of perjury that she would comply with election-related security protocols. Peters declined to sign the Certification and Attestation of Compliance, according to Griswold.

Under Colorado law, neither the SOS nor the county is authorized to remove a sitting county clerk from serving as a county's DEO, making the lawsuit necessary, the release says.

Griswold is asking the Mesa County District Court to exercise the Court’s authority to assign the DEO responsibilities. 

A DEO is the person responsible for running elections for a local government, like a municipality or a county. They make determinations regarding elections issues for their municipality or county.  The Secretary of State does have the authority to appoint election supervisors.

Williams currently serves as DEO, and was appointed as such when Mesa County Court Judge Robison ruled in favor of barring Tina Peters from 2021 election oversight as DEO after she was accused of disregarding rules and orders of the SOS.

The Court’s decision legally barred Peters from serving as DEO until the completion of all 2021 election-related activities. That completion is expected to be reached sometime in early February.

Peters recently announced plans to seek re-election.

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