FBI joins probe of Colorado county election equipment security breach

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

DENVER, Aug 17 (Reuters) - The FBI said on Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into the suspected security breach of voting equipment in a western Colorado county, which Colorado's secretary of state has said was allowed by the locally elected county clerk.

The federal inquiry into Mesa County's voting system comes amid an ongoing investigation by state election authorities of how election-equipment passwords ended up posted on a right-wing internet blog, as well as a criminal probe of the matter by the local district attorney.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are working with local prosecutors “on the forensic review and analysis of county voting systems to determine if there was a potential federal criminal violation,” FBI spokeswoman Courtney Bernal said in a statement.

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Last week, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold de-certified the county’s election machines - 41 devices in all - saying their security had been compromised, and ordered the system replaced. read more

Griswold accused Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, a Republican and supporter of former President Donald Trump, of assisting in a breach of the system during a computer software update in May, months after the November 2020 elections.

On Monday, Griswold, a Democrat, said images from two of the county’s election servers were leaked online by “election conspiracy theorists.”

Griswold said Peters, along with an employee of her office and another, "unauthorized" individual, had gained after-hours access to a secure room where the election equipment was stored.

On Tuesday, Griswold appointed the county treasurer to oversee Mesa County’s upcoming elections in Peters' place, citing authority Griswold said she has to do so under Colorado’s election code.

Peters did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment, and it was unclear whether she would challenge Griswold’s actions in court.

When news of Griswold’s investigation broke last week, Peters was attending a conference in South Dakota hosted by Mike Lindell, founder of the MyPillow bedding company and a prominent Trump confidante.

Peters told the crowd there that she was being “persecuted” and said Griswold “weaponized her position to attack people who disagree with her,” CNN reported.

Mesa County District Attorney Daniel Rubinstein told Reuters last week that his office executed search warrants at the clerk’s office.

The county faces an upcoming school board election in November, county spokeswoman Stephanie Reecy told Reuters.

The software in question was furnished by Dominion Voting Systems, which has sued Trump allies and conservative television networks over baseless claims that the company's products were used to rig the election against Trump.

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Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry

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