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County, state nominate different people to oversee Mesa County elections as FBI joins data breach case

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mesa County District Attorney's Office are working to determine if there was a possible federal criminal violation.

MESA COUNTY, Colo. — The Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) has appointed a new supervisor of Mesa County's November election, on the same day that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced it is joining an investigation into Republican Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters.

On Tuesday Night, Colorado's Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced that Republican Mesa County Treasurer, and former Mesa County Clerk, Shiela Reiner, would run the county's November 2021 election.

Griswold cited her authority to supervise the conduct of elections in the state.

She also created a three-person election advisory committee to assist Reiner in running the November election.

That committee is made up of two Republicans and one Democrat:

  • State Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction
  • Republican Ouray County Clerk Michelle Nauer
  • Former Democratic Secretary of State Bernie Buescher

Griswold also banned Peters and two staff, Belinda Knisley and Sandra Brown, from participating in all elections following a security breach that resulted in election system passwords ending up online.

Just after Griswold's announcement, Mesa County commissioners began a meeting in which they discussed nominating a supervisor of their own.

"There's an immediate need, in my opinion, an immediate need, to counter what the Secretary of State is doing. Our position is she is out of her lane, this is our territory, not her territory," said Commissioner Scott McInnis (R).

The Mesa County Commissioners ultimately voted to have former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who was defeated by Griswold in the 2018 election, run Mesa's November 2021 election. Williams is currently a Colorado Springs City councilman.

With dueling appointments, it will likely take a compromise or a court to decide who actually runs the November election in Mesa County.

Also Tuesday, the FBI confirmed it was working with the 21st Judicial District Attorney's Office on a forensic review and analysis of the voting systems in Mesa County to determine if federal law was violated.

The D.A.'s Office is also investigating to see if any state law was violated. District Attorney Dan Rubenstein got a judge to seal documents related to the investigation.

The Colorado SOS' office has a separate investigation of its own.

These investigations started after the passwords linked to Mesa County’s voting system were published.

On Monday, the SOS confirmed that two images from a hard drive from the county's election servers were posted online. These images contained copies of the election management software that runs voting system equipment in Mesa County. 

RELATED: Colorado Secretary of State orders Mesa County to stop using election equipment

The SOS has also accused Peters of going into a secure room after office hours on the night of May 23, the day SOS investigators believe the images were taken. The room contained the election equipment.

According to the SOS investigation, Peters went in the room with another employee from the clerk’s office and another man, Gerald Wood, who was unauthorized to be there.

RELATED: Mesa County Clerk was in room with compromised hard drive after hours, SOS says

The SOS has contacted the U.S. Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to share what they gathered in their investigation.

If Mesa County wants to avoid a hand count in its next election, it has to buy and certify new election equipment by the end of the month. Griswold's office would be involved in that purchase. A spokeswoman told 9NEWS that Mesa County has not asked to buy new equipment.

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