Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters presents Board of Commissioners with alleged evidence of destruction of election records

Clerk Peters gives her first on-camera interview since security breach allegations regarding her office were raised by the Sec. of State
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:58 PM MDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2021 at 9:52 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - On Friday, Sept. 17, Mesa Co. Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters presented the Mesa Co. Board of Commissioners with alleged evidence of a significant loss of data found within the Mesa Co. voting systems.

Peters explained in an interview that, “Behind my back and contrary to prior representations, these records were destroyed by the Secretary of State and the vendor. And, preventing any audit of the 2020 election. This appears to be a serious crime. But thanks to my arranging for a forensic image, that the EMS servers, just beforehand, those records are preserved.” According to Peters, this information was lost during a routine election system maintenance operation called a “trusted build” on May 25, 2021.

The evidence Peters gave to the board is an 83-page report of forensic examination and analysis. According to Peters, it was prepared by Doug Gould, the cyber forensic expert retained to advise her in accordance with her duties as the county’s Chief Election Official.

The Colo. Sec. of State Jena Griswold had stripped Clerk Peters of her election supervision authorities. In Aug., the Mesa Co. Board of Commissioners appointed Wayne Williams as the county’s Designated Election Official. Mesa Co. had to replace its voting equipment after Griswold decertified citing security compromises. The county’s new voting systems have since been certified. According to Peters, “The report also shows that these machines cannot meet certification requirements of the State of Colorado, and should not have been certified for use. This is why I had to arrange for these images to be made. It was the only way I could find if the records were in fact destroyed, and whether the machines were designed to accurately tabulate the votes. And it turned out my suspicions were correct.”

The report provided by Peters claims, “Forensic examination found that election records, including data described in the Federal Election Commission’s 2002 Voting Systems Standards (VSS) mandated by Colorado law as certification requirements for Colorado voting systems, have been destroyed on the Mesa County’s voting system, by the system vendor and the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.” The report then continues by naming concerns for possible data destruction in other counties.

The report also claims a total of 28,989 logfiles were deleted. According to the report, these logfiles are required to reconstruct the function of and events taking place on the voting systems, and based upon information provided by legal counsel, must, by law, be preserved.

Mesa Co. Commissioner Cody Davis is saying the Board of Commissioners takes these allegations seriously and is looking into them.

He detailed how, “We’ve reached out to a couple cyber experts, and again we just got this on Friday afternoon and it’s Monday so, this report is very fresh. It also has been filed with the courts by Tina Peters’ attorney Scott Gessler, so it is going to be used in court, to prove or at least allege, that there has been some type of election impropriety.” Davis is also saying, “So far, the preliminary look that our cyber security experts have looked into, don’t put a lot of weight into them, but we still want them thoroughly vetted by the proper parties.”

According to the analysis summary of the report, it asserts that “Deleted data is critical to any effort to reconstruct events taking place on the voting systems, and to determine if unauthorized access or operation of the voting systems took place. Furthermore, the EMS server application logging functions are configured to ‘Overwrite events as needed’ if arbitrarily-selected file storage sizes are exceeded, which could predictably and likely has resulted in the systematic, automated deletion of logfile content comprising election-related data.”

In the report’s conclusion, it claims that election-related data and election data that is explicitly required to be preserved was destroyed in violation of law. Furthermore, the report asserts that the specific configuration settings of the server have likely not been met despite this system having been certified and thereby approved for use in Colo. by the Colo. Sec. of State.

The report concludes by stating, “Further investigation is required to determine the full scope of non-compliance with legal mandates for voting systems and election records, and whether the non-compliance is deliberate or simply negligent.”

In response to these allegations, Griswold explained that, “The Mesa County election security breach is serious, as it compromised election equipment and spread election misinformation. Clerk Peters and Deputy Clerk Knisley jeopardized Mesa County elections, and their actions were not consistent with the required practice for the preservation of election records. That is why my office had to quickly act to ensure Mesa County residents have great elections this fall.”

The Sec. of State’s Office further elaborated that, “Prior to the routine upgrade to voting equipment called the ‘trusted build,’ counties are directed to save to external media all data necessary to completely audit and verify a prior election. This data may be restored to the EMS after the trusted build. No court has ever held that voting system event logs are election records within the meaning of 52 U.S.C. § 20701.”

Clerk Peters has expressed mistrust in Mesa Co.’s voting systems, citing this alleged information loss. Commissioner Davis is encouraging the public to turn out and vote this fall. He says the multiple security measures put in place, like cross-tabulation and posting ballot images online, will ensure election security in Mesa Co.

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