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Mesa County, Colo., Looks into Elections Data Breach

Both the district attorney’s office in Mesa County, Colo., and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office are examining the details of an alleged data breach that exposed passwords for local elections equipment.

(TNS) — Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said Wednesday that his office is investigating the county clerk’s office after election equipment passwords were allegedly posted online.

It’s the second investigation into the alleged security breach and is being conducted independently of a probe by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Rubinstein, a Republican, said he was contacted Monday morning by Deputy Secretary of State Chris Beall and told that the Secretary of State’s Office was conducting an investigation into a security breach at the clerk’s office. Rubinstein said it was the first he had heard of the breach. He assigned an investigator to look into it.

“I was told that they believed that there were potential criminal matters which would be referred to my office for prosecution,” the district attorney said Wednesday.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican, has not complied with the secretary of state’s investigation. On Tuesday, she flew to South Dakota and spoke at a “cyber symposium” designed to prove the 2020 presidential election was hacked. No evidence of hacking has been presented at the event.

Peters was given a standing ovation at the symposium Tuesday night. She told the crowd, “I have been persecuted. They have tried to take over my elections office” and “control the way we vote” in the conservative Western Slope county.

“Just yesterday, I got an order from the secretary of state that she was going to invade my elections office today, and guess what? When I was on a plane to come see you kind folks and talk to you out there, guess what they did? They provided a search warrant and raided my office,” Peters said.

The clerk said that law enforcement officers and “a DA person” were also in the office Tuesday. She claimed they were there “on trumped-up charges” but didn’t say what those charges are.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said in an interview Wednesday that six employees from her office flew to Grand Junction on Tuesday morning. They were accompanied by a county employee at all times as they inspected voting equipment and chain-of-custody logs for the equipment, according to Griswold. Employees from the district attorney’s office were also there, she said.

“There were two investigations being conducted independently of each other at the same time,” Griswold said.

The Secretary of State’s Office believes an alleged breach occurred at the county clerk’s office May 25 during an update of Dominion Voting Systems’ software. On Aug. 2, images posted to the social media site Telegram and right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit included election equipment passwords. As a result, Mesa County’s equipment may have to be replaced, according to the secretary of state.

“Our investigation is to determine whether or not security protocols have been compromised and whether or not we need to prohibit the voting equipment,” Griswold said. “That’s what we are focused on. Then there’s also a criminal investigation being led by the district attorney out there.”

Rubinstein declined to give details about who or what his office is investigating but said, “I can confirm that we have not entered into this investigation with any person or criminal act in mind.”

The Colorado County Clerks Association said Monday that it fully supports the Secretary of State’s Office investigation and hopes “a thorough investigation will provide clear answers to the concerns raised by” Griswold.

The Mesa County clerk criticized the association and its executive director at the symposium Tuesday night, claiming that they know elections can be hacked but are unwilling to speak up.

Peters, meanwhile, has until Thursday to respond to Griswold’s order that she hand over any communications, including texts and voicemails, in which she or her staff discussed Dominion or the alleged breach, along with all background checks on clerk’s office employees.

“From the information that we have, we will then make a determination as to whether the clerk’s office has proven that there was no lapse in chain of custody over this equipment,” Griswold said of her office’s investigation. “They will also have to prove that there was no unacceptable access to the voting equipment.”

©2021 The Denver Post, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.