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Trumpist county clerk barred after leak of voting-system passwords to QAnon


A photo of Tina Peters.

A Colorado judge on Wednesday barred Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from supervising elections due to the leak of voting-system BIOS passwords to QAnon conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Mesa County registered elector Heidi Jeanne Hess had petitioned the court for a ruling that Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are unable to perform the functions of the Designated Election Official for the November 2021 election.

The “court determines that the petitioners have met the burden of showing that Peters and Knisley have committed a breach and neglect of duty and other wrongful acts,” Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie Robison wrote in Wednesday’s ruling. “As such, Peters and Knisley are unable or unwilling to appropriately perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official. The court further determines substantial compliance with the provisions of the code require an injunction prohibiting Peters and Knisley from performing the duties of the Designated Election Official.”

In August, Watkins released photos of information on Dominion’s Election Management Systems (EMS) voting machines, including an installation manual and “BIOS passwords for a small collection of computers, including EMS server and client systems,” as we reported at the time. While Watkins, a former 8chan administrator, was trying to prove that Dominion can remotely administer the machines, the documents actually showed “a generic set of server hardware, with explicit instructions to keep it off the Internet and lock down its remote management functions.”

Peters, who promoted Trump’s conspiracy theory that voting machines were manipulated to help Joe Biden win the 2020 election, “‘holed up’ in a safe house provided by pillow salesman and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell” when the FBI began investigating her, according to an August 19 Vice News article. Her location was described as a “mystery” for a while, but she appeared at an event in Grand Junction, Colorado, last month.

Peters brought outsider to confidential meeting

Judge Robison’s ruling details how Peters brought a man named Gerald Wood into a meeting on a “trusted build” software update that ensures a secure chain of custody for the voting system. The meeting was intended only for authorized staff, but Wood was not a county employee even though Peters introduced him to staff “as an administrative assistant with her office who was transitioning from the motor vehicle division to the election’s division.” The judge wrote:

During the Mesa County “trusted build”, confidential passwords were required. The passwords were maintained on a spreadsheet contained on a laptop [that Colorado Department of State Senior Voting Systems Specialist Danny] Casias brought with him from Denver. At some point, during the four plus hours of the “trusted build” process, video and photos were taken of Casias’ laptop and the passwords contained on his screen.

Later, the confidential passwords were publicly posted to an online social media site. On August 2, 2021, the Secretary learned that the confidential passwords had been publicly disseminated and an investigation began.

After Griswold’s complaint against Peters, the court held a September 28 status conference during which “the parties agreed that the facts were undisputed, and an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary.” Robison thus decided the case based on the pleadings and exhibits.

Though Peters originally presented Wood to staff as an administrative assistant, “Peters and Knisley now describe Gerald Wood as a ‘consultant’ hired by Peters to copy the voting equipment computers,” the judge’s ruling said in a section listing the “undisputed” facts of the case. “There was no information provided to the Secretary that Peters or Knisley obtained a background check of Gerald Wood,” even though Colorado election rules require background checks for anyone accessing secured areas with election equipment.



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