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Supporters back Mesa County clerk, who is in hiding after voting system breach

State GOP representative calls investigation a ‘false-flag operation’
About 250 people gathered outside the Mesa County Elections office on Saturday to back up Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who is accused of facilitating an elections security breach in May. (Nancy Lofholm/Special to The Colorado Sun)

GRAND JUNCTION – Embattled – and invisible – Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters sent a message to 250 or so supporters gathered in a parking lot outside the Mesa County Elections office Saturday afternoon: “I love you, and I will always serve you.”

In response, people in the crowd waved their flags harder, hoisted their signs higher and chanted: “I love Tina. I love Tina.” A supporter recorded the scene and promised to send it to Peters.

“Our hero, Tina,” as some of her conservative constituents refer to her, was the absent star of a rally organized in her honor by a group called Mesa County Concerned Citizens. She is in hiding because of what some of her supporters say, without evidence, are threats against her life.

Peters has been incommunicado with the media and away from her office since last week, when she was a featured speaker at a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, cyber symposium hosted by MyPillow CEO, Trump supporter and election fraud conspiracist Mike Lindell. Lindell had promised that he would disclose evidence at that symposium that the 2020 election was rigged. No such evidence was presented by Peters or any other speakers.

The political saga that has enveloped Mesa County in the past week ramped up while Peters was at the symposium. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold sent inspectors to Peters office to investigate a possible breach in election security. That visit came after Peters failed to respond to Griswold’s demands for information about the suspected breach that included the leaking of passwords to voting equipment and copies of voting equipment hard drives.

Since then, a cascade of events has embroiled the Mesa County clerk’s office in legal and criminal investigations, and left a local elections office in disarray before Nov. 2 elections. The imbroglio has put Peters in a national spotlight and made the Republican clerk in the Western Slope’s most populated county a darling of far-right conservatives.

About 250 people gathered outside the Mesa County Elections office on Saturday to back up Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who is accused of facilitating an elections security breach in May. (Nancy Lofholm/Special to The Colorado Sun)

Earlier problems in her first term as Mesa County clerk have been overshadowed by her affiliation with people promoting baseless election-fraud theories in relation to former President Donald Trump.

Peters overlooked more than 500 ballots sitting in a ballot drop-box outside her office in 2019. She did not take responsibility when ballots were found blowing in the wind in her office parking lot. She survived a recall attempt connected to those problems.

Peters’ latest controversial actions have brought on a new set of serious consequences.

Griswold, a Democrat, has stripped Peters of her authority over Mesa County elections. She has decertified the county’s election equipment, necessitating the purchase and set up of new equipment by Aug. 31. Griswold appointed Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner to run the office. But, in another bizarre twist, the Mesa County commissioners disagreed with that appointment and hired Wayne Williams, a former secretary of state and current Colorado Springs city councilman, to oversee the Mesa County elections office. Both Williams and Reiner are Republicans, as is Peters.

The FBI has joined the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office in an investigation into alleged late-night videotaping of voting machine hardware last May. Peters allegedly turned off security cameras in her office and allowed a non-employee into a secure area to participate in the late-night action. The information allegedly capture during that late-night visit was posted to a QAnon-linked website before the MyPillow symposium.

Attendees at the Peters rally discussed details of all that among themselves in conversations steeped in pride about having insider information and sprinkled with esoteric references to “code monkeys” and “Chinese chip sets.”

They used “Vote Trump 2020” pens to sign their names to attendance sheets, sported “Where’s Hunter?” and National Rifle Association T-shirts and booed every time the names of Griswold or Williams were brought up by speakers. They applauded and cheered each time Peters’ name was spoken.

“Absolutely, she did what county clerks should do,” said Don Davidson, who drove the 90 miles to Grand Junction from Rangely to show his support for Peters.

Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks of Penrose an outspoken Peters supporter, spoke at the rally, calling the clerk a “gold star mom and public servant.” Peters’ son, Remington Peters, a Navy SEAL, died in 2017 when his parachute malfunctioned during an airborne demonstration in New York.

“There is no evidence she did anything wrong,” Hanks said to loud applause.

Hanks asserted, “evidence is mounting daily” that Griswold’s “raid” on Peters’ office was a “false-flag operation” and a way for Griswold to “divert attention from her own derelict criminal actions.”

Mark McCallister, another Peters supporter, credited her with “opening up the book so you could see what is going on.”

As a steady string of cars honked in support of Peters and drowned out many of the speakers at the downtown site, another supporter, Jen Schumann, told the crowd that “the nation is watching us now.”

“We are going to show the rest of the country how to do it,” she said.

Cory and Jacqueline Anderson, who flew on the MyPillow private jet to the South Dakota symposium with Peters, credited God with “clearing the skies” so that Peters’ supporters could gather after a morning rainstorm.

“I love her. God loves her,” said Jaqueline Anderson, who is known on conservative websites by the nickname, “the dangerous diva.”

Cory Anderson, who read Peters’ message to the crowd, also told the people gathered outside the elections office that America is a constitutional republic, not a democracy. He reminded patriots they have to fight “tyranny” as Peters is doing.

About 250 people gathered outside the Mesa County Elections office on Saturday to back up Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who is accused of facilitating an elections security breach in May. (Nancy Lofholm/Special to The Colorado Sun)

When asked after his speech if he was in regular communication with Peters and if he knew where she was, Anderson refused to answer questions except to drop a quick smile and a “maybe.”

Many at the rally referred to door-to-door canvassing that is going on in Mesa County as an attempt to prove the 2020 vote was rigged.

Ann Tisue, a former Mesa County Valley School District 51 school board member, said she has gone out armed with voter rolls to knock on doors in an attempt to find voter fraud. She said she found a veteran who was told he had already voted when he went to cast his vote in person, and a trailer park resident who said he lived alone even though voter records showed two people from his address had voted.

Tisue would not say who organized or is directing the canvassing.

Mike Miller of Clifton, who said he founded the Stand for the Constitution group, said he believes that Peters has to be in hiding and cannot come back to Mesa County because her life is under threat.

When asked who would want to harm her, Miller said, “You have a good day,” and walked away.

A single protester stood on the outskirts of the Peters supporters holding a sign reading, “Tina stole our data.” Thomas Winnefeld, a Colorado Mesa University computer science student, said he believes Peters broke the law by stealing data.

As he talked about his need to stand up for his political beliefs even if it meant standing in a parking lot alone, a glowering man moved to stand next to him. He held up a large sign reading, “Tina is saving our data and our elections.”

Scott Beilfuss, co-chair of the Mesa County Democrats, was observing on the fringes of the rally and said there was not a counterprotest because, “It is better not to stir them up more. A lot of our volunteers are older ladies and they are afraid to come out to something like this.”

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.