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Election-denying clerk Tina Peters, deputy Belinda Knisley barred from overseeing 2022 elections in Mesa County

Denver Post logo Denver Post 5/12/2022 Saja Hindi, The Denver Post
DENVER, CO - APRIL 5 : Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters is in the rally at west steps of Colorado State Capitol building in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Candidates for higher office continue to try to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election and integrity of Colorado elections as the 2022 election draws closer. © Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post/TNS DENVER, CO - APRIL 5 : Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters is in the rally at west steps of Colorado State Capitol building in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Candidates for higher office continue to try to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election and integrity of Colorado elections as the 2022 election draws closer.

For the second year in a row, a judge has ruled that GOP Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are barred from overseeing an election — this time, through the November 2022 election.

Peters, an election denier who is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is also facing multiple investigations surrounding allegations of an election equipment security breach and campaign finance violations, including 10 criminal counts from a grand jury indictment. She received the most votes among GOP secretary of state candidates at the Republican assembly and convention, as did candidates for other offices in their respective races who spread baseless theories about a stolen 2020 election.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat who is running for re-election, sued Peters on Jan. 18 after the clerk refused to sign documents with new security protocols that would have restricted her authority and required her to repudiate a statement she made about Dominion Voting Systems machines — a subject of Peters and other election conspiracy theorists unsubstantiated claims of widespread of fraud. Mesa County resident Heidi Jeanne Hess is also a plaintiff on the lawsuit.

“Based on the circumstances of this case … the Court determines that the Petitioners have met the burden of showing that Peters and Knisley have committed a neglect of duty and are unable to perform the duties of the Mesa County Designated Election Official,” wrote Judge Valerie Robison in her order filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit also named Julie Fisher, the person designated by Peters as a second chief deputy Mesa County clerk and recorder, as a defendant who should be prevented from serving as the designated election official. The judge determined that there was nothing in state statute that would require Fisher to take on this role.

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The order named Mesa County Elections Director Brandi Bantz as the county’s designated election official, tasked with overseeing the election and its results, including the tabulation of votes.

Peters has received significant national attention from other election deniers, getting support from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, including financially for her legal defense, after she began facing legal action over copies getting made of Mesa County’s voting machines’ hard drives in May 2021.

The embattled clerk also made a visit to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property last week.

In her order, Robison notes that in May 2021, Knisley “facilitated the deactivation of the cameras for the secured area where the Mesa County election equipment was stored,” and Peters “allowed a ‘consultant’ to enter the secured area with the election equipment and allowed the ‘consultant’ to take an image of the equipment.” Peters had described the “consultant” as an employee, and during a routine upgrade of the voting system software called the “trusted build,” Peters took video and photos of the process. After it was completed, the “consultant” took a photo of the equipment, Robison wrote. Passwords from the machines were leaked and later posted online, which prompted Griswold’s initial investigation.

Peters joined the secretary of state’s race in February, part of a national trend of those who have embraced 2020 election conspiracy theories seeking to influence races for the top election officials across the country.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at denverpost.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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