Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters says she plans to appeal a district court ruling that prohibits her from acting as the county's designated election official in the upcoming November election.
The ruling handed down Wednesday by Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie J. Robison caps a months-long effort by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold to prevent Peters from overseeing the election due to Peters' alleged involvement in security breaches that are the subject of multiple ongoing criminal investigations.
"I am clearly disappointed in the District Court’s decision to remove a duly elected clerk and recorder from her election duties," Peters said in a written statement.
"This power grab is a stunning abuse of office and overreach by Secretary of State Jena Griswold, which should alarm all Coloradans. 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."
Added Peters: "I intend to appeal this decision, and am hopeful the Colorado Supreme Court will restore control of local elections to locally elected officials."
Under Colorado law, Peters and her deputy clerk, who was also named in the lawsuit brought by Griswold, have just three days to appeal the decision to the state's high court.
Griswold, a Democrat, ordered Mesa County to replace its election equipment in early August amid allegations Peters, a Republican, had permitted an unauthorized person to participate in a routine software update of the county's voting system and then lied about it.
The suspected breach came to light when images of voting system passwords unique to Mesa County were posted on right-wing websites by activists devoted to former President Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election was rigged. Days later, digital copies of the county's election system hard drive also showed up online after it was discovered that 24-hour video surveillance of the election equipment had been turned off.
At the same time, Peters flew to South Dakota to appear at a symposium sponsored by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the most prominent supporters of groundless theories that last year's election was stolen from Trump. Lindell later said he was helping Peters hide out from purported threats, including in a hotel in Texas, and she didn't return to Mesa County until late last month.
Mesa County's district attorney, the Colorado Attorney General's office and the FBI have all confirmed that they are investigating the data breach.
In her ruling, Robison agreed that Griswold could replace Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley in their roles supervising the off-year election, which has been underway for weeks.
Robison wrote that she didn't find Peters' and Knisley's "arguments and rationalizations to be compelling," adding that they hadn't "overcome the specific acts of untruthfulness, the failure to comply with the Code and orders of the Secretary, and the failure to adhere to the oath of office by faithfully performing all the duties of the office."
Scott Gessler, a former Republican secretary of state and Peters' attorney, hasn't responded to a request for comment on the ruling.
Griswold and Mesa County's three Republican county commissioners in August appointed former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, the Republican Griswold unseated in 2018, and Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, Peters' predecessor as county clerk, to run the November election. Robison's order confirmed that the two can continue in their roles.
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