Mesa County ordered to stop using election materials

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Secretary of State Jena Griswold said the county will have to replace voting materials by August 30 or hand-count ballots in the next election after a security breach.

DENVER – Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has said election materials that may have been compromised must be replaced in Mesa County after an investigation into a breach of security protocol.

Griswold said Thursday the county needed to replace 41 pieces of election material and have them certified by August 30, or manually count the ballots in the next election because the security of the voting systems cannot be verified. Mesa County must also cover the cost of replacing machinery.

The move comes after passwords related to Mesa County’s voting system were discovered and published online, triggering an investigation by the Secretary of State’s office after learning about it last week.

Security cannot be verified as the surveillance cameras were turned off a week before the Trusted Build on May 25 and were not turned back on until August. Griswold said investigators discovered that the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office asked staff to turn off surveillance.

A build of trust is an annual process in which voting equipment is updated to ensure adequate security. Griswold compared it to the type of updates that occur on a personal computer. The main function of a trust build is to create a chain of evidence that allows stakeholders to have an approved template to use for verification of a voting system.

Only Colorado State Department officials, representatives of the voting equipment supplier, and certain county clerk employees are permitted to participate. Background checks are also required.

During the trust build, an unauthorized person gained access after the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder’s Office misled Griswold’s office into believing he was their employee, but he was not, according to Griswold.

The chain of custody of Mesa County equipment cannot be verified, and ballot marking equipment was not secured with tamper-evident seals until a day or two after the trust was built, per therefore the integrity of the equipment cannot be confirmed, Griswold said.

“The collection and dissemination of this information during the Trust Building installation violated security protocols and State Department rules governing this process,” Griswold said.

The leaked passwords could only be used physically in the Mesa County Clerk’s Office voting system, and Griswold said there is no indication that there are similar issues elsewhere in the state.

RELATED: Passwords Linked to Mesa County Voting Systems Posted Online in “Serious Breach” of Security

Conservative website GatewayPundit.com shared screenshots of the information, which they said came from Ron Watkins, a well-known figure in the QAnon movement. QAnon is a series of conspiracies that include allegations of widespread fraud in the 2020 election and stories of Democrats running a pedophilia ring and drinking the blood of children.

>> Watch below: Full press conference with Colorado Secretary of State

As part of its investigation, the SOS ordered an inspection of Mesa County security protocols, surveillance videos, chains of custody for newspapers and a list of people with access to voting systems, as well as a immediate access to voting materials. After Peters did not respond to a request made on Monday, officials in the Secretary of State’s office began inspecting Mesa County voting materials and relevant documents.

They also ordered Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters not to connect, touch or access the equipment without written permission from the state, and she was urged not to destroy any document related to the investigation.

Peters, who has supported electoral conspiracy theories in the past, told 9NEWS she would not comment on the investigation based on advice from the local district attorney. District attorney Dan Rubinstein, however, said on Tuesday that he never advised Peters or anyone else in his office. His office is also conducting its own separate criminal investigation into the incident.

When asked if Peters should step down, Griswold said she couldn’t comment, and County Clerks Association director Matt Crane, a former Arapahoe County Republican clerk, said he ‘It would be premature to say it, but that it would ultimately be up to Mesa County voters.

However, Crane took sharp criticism when describing the security breach.

“It was an individual, intentional and selfish act that compromised the conduct and integrity of elections in Mesa County, and affects voter confidence across the state and country,” he said. . “We have heard people say this was a heroic act. To be clear, there is nothing heroic or honorable about what happened in Mesa County. you want to know who the real heroes of the Colorado election are are the 63 other county clerks and their teams. “

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