Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters indicted for election tampering The indictment of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and her deputy on a laundry list of felony and misdemeanor charges is related to an election security breach in her office last year.

Colorado clerk is indicted for election tampering and misconduct

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1085452644/1085544673" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The top election official in a conservative Colorado county has been charged with tampering with her county's voting equipment. Tina Peters is the clerk of Mesa County. She's also a strong backer of various conspiracy theories alleging that the 2020 election was rigged.

Joining us now to explain more is Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland. Hey.

BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: So tell us exactly what Peters is accused of doing here.

BIRKELAND: So Peters and her deputy are facing a number of charges, including felonies and misdemeanors. And what's interesting about this case is that many of the underlying facts are not disputed. The indictment says the pair devised and executed a deceptive scheme to give an unauthorized person access to the county's voting machine hard drives and to sit in on a software update. The information from those voting machines, including passwords, were later shared with election conspiracy theorists online.

And when Colorado officials first became aware of this possible security breach, Peters was attending an election conspiracy conference hosted by the CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell. And he is one of the leading promoters of false claims about the 2020 election.

CHANG: Right. OK, so explain how Peters is connected to the larger movement to discredit the 2020 election results.

BIRKELAND: The maker of the county's election equipment, Dominion Voting Systems, has been the focus of false claims that it helped steal the 2020 election for President Biden. Dominion is suing a number of the most prominent proponents of those claims for defamation. Peters and her allies have said that they do believe the 2020 election was stolen. Audits and hand counts in Colorado and other states have confirmed the accuracy of the election results.

Peters has defended her actions on many occasions, and she has accused Democratic leaders in Colorado of targeting her because she's a Republican, and Peters has said she was simply trying to answer the questions and concerns many of her constituents had. And prior to this indictment, a judge had banned Peters from overseeing the local election in 2021. And there is a lawsuit to prevent her from overseeing the 2022 election.

CHANG: Let me ask you - because you know, since the 2020 election, we have seen election officials around the country face death threats and all kinds of disinformation about how ballots are counted - can you just put this Peters case in context for us when we're looking at all these other different threats to the democratic process?

BIRKELAND: It's an issue we're hearing from in states across the country. And in Colorado, local election officials and state lawmakers are concerned that other election officials could also act on these election fraud conspiracy theories, and they don't want more people in the public to lose confidence in the voting process. The bipartisan County Clerks Association in Colorado called this breach in trust by Peters devastating, and Colorado lawmakers are already working on legislation to try to prevent these types of insider threats. Other proposals would add protections for election workers against threats.

I would also note that Tina Peters is still currently running to be Colorado's next secretary of state, and this is the top election official in the state. She's in a GOP primary race, and the Colorado Republican Party has asked Peters to suspend her campaign in light of this indictment.

CHANG: That is Bente Birkeland, public affairs reporter for Colorado Public Radio. Thank you, Bente.

BIRKELAND: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIMECOP1983 AND THE BAD DREAMERS SONG, "BACK TO YOU")

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.