Colorado elections clerk is sued after passing on voting data

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Feb 17 (Reuters) - A Colorado elections clerk was sued on Thursday after he copied data from voting machines with the help of two men with ties to groups supporting the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen from former Republican President Donald Trump.

Dallas Schroeder, who oversees elections in Elbert County, east of Denver, was sued by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold for making two copies of his county's voting system hard drives and then handing the images to "unauthorized people", according to the lawsuit.

In the civil lawsuit, filed in Elbert County District Court, Griswold demands that Schroeder return the copies and hand over the device he used to make them.

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Schroeder did not immediately respond to a Reuters email for comment.

Schroeder is the second Colorado elections clerk to come under scrutiny for allegedly breaching voting systems as part of an "election integrity" effort by Trump supporters who falsely claim the 2020 election was marred by fraud. Suspected breaches are under investigation in other states, including in Michigan, where authorities last week said an unnamed third party had been given unauthorized access to a county voting system.

In August, the FBI opened an investigation into a suspected security breach of voting equipment in Mesa County in western Colorado. Griswold, a Democrat, has accused Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters of facilitating that breach.

Peters and Schroeder, both Republicans, have denied any wrongdoing.

Peters announced on Monday she was running for Colorado Secretary of State.

In a January court filing, Schroeder said he made copies of his county's voting system hard drives last August.

He said he was "provided instructions" on the phone by Shawn Smith and Mark Cook, prominent election-denial activists, and used a device provided by Cook.

Smith and Cook are associates of Mike Lindell, the pro-Trump chief executive of My Pillow Inc., and an election conspiracist.

Cook did not immediately respond to an email and call seeking comment. There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Smith, sent through the U.S. Election Integrity Plan group with which he is affiliated.

Schroeder said he gave the hard drive copies to his attorney, John Case, and another unnamed attorney. He said he made the copies to preserve election records before a scheduled update to the systems. Schroeder is also suing Griswold, demanding an audit of the 2020 results.

In Michigan last week, Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson claimed an unnamed third party had been given unauthorized access to a county voting system.

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Reporting by Tim Reid in Los Angeles and Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco; Editing by Donna Bryson, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Chizu Nomiyama

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Thomson Reuters

U.S. National Affairs Correspondent who spent four years in Venezuela covering President Maduro's administration and the humanitarian crisis and has also reported from Chile, Argentina and India. She was Reuters’ Reporter of the Year in 2015 and a leading member of a team that won an Overseas Press Club award for best coverage of Latin America in 2018.