Judge blocks county clerk who embraced conspiracy theories from overseeing election

A Colorado judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of blocking a county clerk who had embraced conspiracy theories from overseeing the 2021 election in Mesa County.

District Judge Valerie Robison ruled on Wednesday that Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters (R) and her deputy, Belinda Knisley, “are unable or unwilling to appropriately perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official.”

In her ruling, Robison said that an injunction blocking the two from acting as designated election officials for the county had been granted and that former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) would instead oversee the Mesa County elections.

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The ruling comes after officials found in early August that confidential passwords during a “trusted build” — a type of software update for voting equipment — had been publicized, according to court documents. The filings said that current Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) saw photos of the passwords circulated online from the county’s hardware stations. 

Some of the voting equipment had to be decertified after state employees went through nine computers and found incorrect settings.

“On the server computer there were two settings that were incorrect: the secure boot setting was disabled, and the boot from the optical drive setting was enabled,” according to a court filing. “The combination of the changes to the two settings resulted in enabling of a security vulnerability if someone had physical access to the system. Additionally, the enabled security vulnerability of the server computer created a vulnerability for the other computers.”

The filing also alleges that hard drives of voting equipment computers had been copied before and after the “trusted build” by a man named Gerald Wood, who had first been introduced by Peters as an “administrative assistant” as the trusted build was taking place. He was later claimed to be a “consultant” by Peters and her deputy.

Copies of the hard drives and photos of the passwords surfaced during a conference hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, according to The Washington Post, and Griswold sued Peters in August. Lindell, among others, has claimed that the 2020 election was not won by President BidenJoe Biden White House: US has donated 200 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world Police recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom MORE.

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In a statement on Wednesday, Griswold commended the ruling, saying “Clerk Peters seriously compromised the security of Mesa County’s voting system. The Court’s decision today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible election they deserve.”

Peters called Griswold’s lawsuit a “power grab” and said she intended to appeal the decision.

"If this decision stands, it will fundamentally shift the power of running local elections from the county clerk to a Secretary of State in Denver, eroding the checks and balances that make our elections fair," Peters said in a statement.