Election misinformation reaches Arapahoe County clerk's office

Sometimes-fervent emails, calls reference Mesa County amid state-level conflict

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/2/21

In the months leading up the election that ends today, the Arapahoe County office that oversees elections received messages about dubious claims playing out at the state level about election security …

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Election misinformation reaches Arapahoe County clerk's office

Sometimes-fervent emails, calls reference Mesa County amid state-level conflict

Posted

In the months leading up the election that ends today, the Arapahoe County office that oversees elections received messages about dubious claims playing out at the state level about election security — lingering echoes of unproven claims about wrongdoing in the 2020 presidential election.

A letter defending an embattled elections official — Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters — was sent to at least several Colorado county clerks, according to reporting by news outlet Colorado Newsline. The letter was dated Aug. 27.

The typed section of the letter discusses Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold's investigation into an election-system security breach involving Peters, Colorado Newsline reported.

The office of Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Joan Lopez received a copy of that letter, addressed to  Lopez, with the return address blacked out, a spokesperson for the clerk told Colorado Community Media.

“We have also received several emails incorporating a similar theme — defending Tina Peters as a 'hero,' accusing Secretary of State (Jena) Griswold of overstepping her authority, alleging that voter fraud is rampant” and so on, the spokesperson, Tom Skelley, told CCM via email. “Many of those emails were obviously copied and pasted from one original source just as this letter was.”

Neither Lopez nor the office's staff have received any direct threats of violence, Skelley said.

“We have, however, seen references to a coming 'Civil War,' mentions of 'treason (being) punishable by Death' and demands for a 'forensic' audit of ballots,” Skelley said.

Peters had made claims about election records being destroyed during what's called a “trusted build,” according to a Sept. 23 news release from the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

A trusted build is a routine upgrade to voting systems, the secretary of state's office told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

Peters says she commissioned a report that alleges that nearly 29,000 election files were deleted during a routine upgrade of Mesa County's election equipment in May, the Sentinel reported.

Those files, however, were common log files that were part of the computer's operating system, and not actual election files, state officials said, according to the Sentinel's report.

Griswold, the secretary of state, filed an opening brief in a lawsuit to remove Peters as the designated election official in Mesa County, according to the Sept. 23 news release.

“The Secretary would have no objection to a county backing up its log files for its voting systems — in fact, Larimer County requested to back up their log files prior to a trusted build, and the Department of State helped Larimer County perform such a backup,” the brief says, according to the release. “Instead, Peters made copies of the entire hard drive, exposing the security of the entire election system when those copies were posted on the Internet.”

Later, a judge in Mesa County ruled in favor of removing Peters as the designated election official and granted the secretary of state's request that Wayne Williams be appointed as the designated election official for Mesa County, according to an Oct. 13 news release from the secretary of state's office.

Williams, a Republican, is Griswold's predecessor as Colorado secretary of state. Griswold, a Democrat, defeated Williams in the 2018 election.

Believers in QAnon conspiracy theories turned their attention to the report that Peters says she commissioned about copies of hard drives as proof the 2020 election was stolen, the Sentinel reported Sept. 26.

The report that Mesa County's Peters says she commissioned was written by a member of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's so-called cyber investigation team, Doug Gould, and was being shared on conspiracy-theory social media sites, the Sentinel reported.

Regarding the letter received by county clerks in Colorado, Arapahoe County's Lopez told Colorado Community Media through her spokesperson: “It is extremely unfortunate that county clerks (in) Colorado are being harassed and threatened based on allegations that are untruthful, unproven and, in many cases, maliciously spread to sow mistrust in our elections process.

“It is especially frustrating because we know our voting systems and our completely bipartisan elections processes have performed flawlessly, election after election, and we have no doubt whatsoever in the integrity of the equipment or procedures,” Lopez said in the statement.

“It is important to mention that every county in the state already performs a post-election audit of ballots after every statewide election, and the results are publicly available,” Lopez continued.

Regarding the references to a coming “Civil War,” mentions of treason and demands for an audit of ballots, the clerk's office said “both of those emails” were received in August.

“We started receiving more of these type of email — with a more aggressive tone — in the time leading up to the SOS Office's trusted build of county election systems statewide” around June, Skelley said.

The Arapahoe clerk's office also recently received an email that was sent to all Colorado county clerks — from one person in Aspen and another in Colorado Springs — that contained misinformation about Colorado-based Dominion Voting Systems, according to the clerk's office on Nov. 1.

Dominion, which sells electronic voting equipment used in many parts of the country, has come up in false claims about fraud in the 2020 election. Dominion has defended the reliability of its products.

“We have received some miscellaneous calls wherein people mention Tina Peters, referring us to law enforcement” and so on, Skelley said.

The clerk's office pointed the public to its “Election Transparency” portal. That section of the clerk's website includes information, data and videos on topics including pre-election testing, post-election audits, bipartisan certification of results and Colorado's mail ballot voting system.

The office added the page to its website last year. It's located here.

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