In August, QAnon conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins shared a video he claimed showed ballot machines from Dominion Voting Systems could be remotely accessed to tamper with the results of a vote. At the time, he said the information came to him from a “whistleblower.”
This week, a Colorado judge barred Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters from overseeing the county’s upcoming November election in relation to a leak of voting machine BIOS passwords. Peters, who tweeted in support of former President Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories, invited a man named Gerald Wood to a meeting involving a “trusted build” software update that was meant to ensure the security of the county’s voting machines. Peters claimed Wood was an “administrative assistant” transitioning to her office, but then later described him as a “consultant” she hired to copy information from the computers.
Ahead of the meeting, Belinda Knisley, Peters’ deputy, sent an email to staff asking that they turn off the security cameras in the Election Department and not turn them back on until after August 1st. Knisley didn’t explain the reason for her request, but it was carried out either way. On the day of the meeting, Wood photographed a spreadsheet that contained the passwords to the machines and copied over their hard drives. Following the meeting, the passwords were publicly posted to an “online social media site.”
“Peters directed the creation of the images of the hard drive, which was not authorized by law and which directly led to the decommissioning of Mesa County’s voting systems, facilitating the leak of sensitive data and exposed the county’s voting system to compromise,” Judge Valerie Robinson wrote in a decision spotted by Ars Technica.
In a statement, Peters said she plans to appeal the “decision to remove a duly elected clerk and recorded from her election duties.” She went on to described herself as a whistleblower and called the case against her a “power grab” by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
“Clerk Peters seriously compromised the security of Mesa County’s voting system,” Griswold said in a statement. “The Court’s decision today bars Peters from further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections and ensures Mesa County residents have the secure and accessible election they deserve.” The FBI and Mesa County district attorney are investigating Peters, but no criminal charges have been filed yet.
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