By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY and COLLEEN SLEVIN
DENVER (AP) — Republicans in Colorado will decide Tuesday whether to nominate — as their candidate for the state’s top election official — a county elections clerk who is under indictment for a security breach spurred by conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election.
Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters announced plans earlier this year to run for the Republican nomination for secretary of state on the podcast of former President Donald Trump’s adviser, Steve Bannon. In recent months, she has been issuing various reports — discredited by officials and experts — that claim vulnerabilities in voting equipment used widely in Colorado and across the country.
Also running in the Republican primary is Pam Anderson, a former county clerk who previously led the state clerks’ association, and businessman Mike O’Donnell. The current secretary of state, Jena Griswold, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Anderson’s campaign highlighted her experience running elections and a call for less politics in the role of secretary of state.
Peters, elected in 2018 to oversee elections in Mesa County, is among several candidates across the country this year seeking to oversee elections as their state’s chief election official while denying the outcome of the 2020 election or falsely claiming that elections in the U.S. are corrupt.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud or conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election.
Peters, who has been barred by a judge from overseeing this year’s election, has said she is running to “restore trust and transparency and end government overreach” in elections. In the indictment, authorities alleged Peters was part of a “deceptive scheme” to breach voting system technology.
She has claimed the indictment, which includes seven felony counts, was motivated by politics. The Mesa County grand jury that issued the indictment was comprised of residents in the largely Republican county along the Utah border.
Trump won Mesa County with nearly 63% of the vote in 2020. President Joe Biden won Colorado overall with 55.4% percent of the state’s vote.
Peters has appeared regularly with Trump loyalists, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has promoted Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. She attended Lindell’s “cybersymposium” last year where Lindell promised to reveal proof that voting machines were somehow manipulated.
While no evidence was provided, a copy of Mesa County’s voting system hard drive was distributed and posted online, according to attendees and state officials. Peters has said she had the authority and an obligation to make the copy but said she had no knowledge of how it came to be distributed.
Of the other primaries held Tuesday, no other state included a race for the state’s top election official.
Nationally, nearly two dozen Republican candidates are running to be their state’s top election official who deny the result of the 2020 presidential election, according to States United Action, a nonpartisan advocacy organization tracking the candidates.
Among those who have advanced to the November ballot are Wes Allen in Alabama, Diego Morales in Indiana, Jim Marchant in Nevada and Audrey Trujillo in New Mexico. Kristina Karamo in Michigan and Kim Crockett in Minnesota are favorites to win their primaries in August.
A coalition of election and cybersecurity officials declared the 2020 presidential election the “most secure in American history,” while Trump’s attorney general at the time said there was no fraud that would have altered the results. There has been no evidence to suggest Trump was cheated out of a second term.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta.
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