Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters is in hot water. She is currently under investigation by the FBI, Republican District Attorney Dan Rubenstein and the State of Colorado for a election security violation that took place in May.
Peters enlisted “Gerald Wood”, a so-called “non-employee consultant”, to image the hard drives of voting machines before and after system updates known as the “confidence build”. Those hard drive images were then leaked online in August.
Peters is now embroiled in two lawsuits over her election oversight status in Mesa, one of which is a counter-suit she has brought against the Secretary of State. In his defense, Peters insists that trust building violates state law and that his actions were necessary to ensure compliance.
A trusted version is a brand new installation of voting system software and firmware such as Dominion or Clear Ballot, which includes enhancements and new security features, often required by law.
“As an elected Colorado law enforcement official, Clerk Peters suspected that the secretary’s trust-building process had erased the election records she was required to keep under Colorado law,” asserts his trial.
The word “suspected” is interesting because Peters should already understand the process of building trust. Mesa adopted the voting machines and Dominion software in 2015 as part of the PERC pilot project. Peters took office in January 2019. Confidence builds have since taken place at least twice during his tenure – 2019 and 2021.
Simply put: The May 25 Confidence Build wasn’t Peters’ first confidence-building rodeo. It was his second. After Mesa’s confidence-building in 2019, she should have known by now that what she “suspected” this year is precisely what IS SUPPORTED to happen.
The lawsuit claims Peters “commissioned a report which appears to validate his suspicion that the secretary’s trust-building process has deleted or destroyed records that must be kept for at least two years.” Still, the Colorado County Clerks Association (CCCA) – representing the 64 clerks – says the removal of material in building trust is “by design.”
CCCA recently confirmed that “the trust build process installs new trusted build software and firmware files and removes software and firmware files related to the old trusted version.” In addition, Windows is reinstalled. This means that, as with a personal computer, the preexisting data is supplanted and the logs are deleted. This is intentional and flawless.
Either Peters didn’t understand what’s going on in a trusted version or she’s dishonest. Say whatever you want about Dominion, there’s nothing wrong about building trust. Current and former clerks and staff attest that building trust in Mesa was standard procedure.
Peters is adamant that deleting data violates state law because almost everything is erased from computers to voting machines. Therefore, his counter-suit insists that it was necessary for Peters to have “retained a consultant to image the hard drive of the county’s electronic vote compilation equipment.” This is simply not the case.
“With careful and diligent review, counties safeguard and maintain all necessary and legally required state and federal election records,” El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman, a Republican, told me. “During a reliable build process, new software and firmware files are installed. Counties have been running this process since 2002, regardless of the equipment supplier. This is NOT a violation of federal or state election retention laws.
This is because every county – including Mesa – is expected to own every election project and database version starting in 2020. Dominion software allows counties to create regular backups of election project files in the software to generate a file. .zip containing all audio files, ballots, results, etc.
Counties regularly download backups to external hard drives, back them up to another drive, then move them to an Internet-connected computer for upload to the Secretary of State’s office for records they need to keep. Does Peters admit that she did not follow the same steps as the others?
As the CCCA points out, “The state keeps a copy of the old Trusted Build and the counties keep backups of their draft voting system for 25 months after each election.”
Additionally, as Broerman points out, the original and physical ballots themselves should be kept for 25 months to verify election results if necessary.
“Each county also keeps the ballots from each election for 25 months after each election,” he said. “These records allow a county, if necessary, to recreate the election, recount the ballots and verify the accuracy of the system when compiling the ballots. These recordings and the ability to recreate an election ensure compliance with federal and state election retention laws. “
Windows log files and unrelated computer data are irrelevant because they are not included in the definition of “election records” that state law requires clerks to keep. Election records include “accounting forms, registration certificates, poll books, election certificates, signature cards, all affidavits, voter applications, other voter lists and records, mail-in ballot return envelopes, ballots, unused ballots, spoiled ballots and replacement ballots. “These are kept for 25 months.
With the next election, the confidence of voters is essential. County clerks have worked diligently to reassure the Coloradans of our state’s electoral process. Whether or not Tina Peters understands what building trust entails, either perspective is worrying. Colorado voters deserve to know the truth about the trusted versions. Our ability to restore confidence in future elections depends on it.