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Colorado county clerk indicted in election security breach case

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters announced last month that she's running to become Colorado's secretary of state, a position that would involve supervising elections.

WASHINGTON — A grand jury in Colorado has indicted Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters on counts related to a probe into alleged election equipment tampering and official misconduct.

Peters was indicted on felony and misdemeanor charges connected to an investigation into an election security breach in the county's office last year. Belinda Knisley, Peters’ deputy, was also indicted.

The 10 counts against Peters include attempting to influence a public servant, criminal impersonation, conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, identity theft, official misconduct, violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state.

“This investigation is ongoing, and other defendants may be charged as we learn more information,” said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in a joint statement announcing the indictments. “We remind everyone that these are allegations at this point and that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Peters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters reads an update on the election in Grand Junction, Colo., June 30, 2020.McKenzie Lange / The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel via AP file

Peters said last month that she is running to become Colorado's secretary of state. Her announcement came about a month after she said she would run for re-election as county clerk.

The current secretary of state, Democrat Jena Griswold, sued Peters last year, alleging she allowed an “unauthorized individual” to participate in the process for installing an update to the county’s electronic voting system, which the lawsuit said led to “the public disclosure of State-guarded passwords needed to access the equipment. It appears that the passwords were then used by an as-yet unknown person or persons to access the equipment.”

A judge then decided in October to remove Peters as the designated election official for Mesa County, saying she and her deputy “committed a breach and neglect of duty and other wrongful acts.”

Peters has denied any wrongdoing and has called the litigation against her “a power grab” that would erode elections checks and balances. She also has claimed that the alleged breach was an effort by her to back up the voting system and preserve records.