DENVER — A third Colorado clerk and recorder is being investigated by the secretary of state’s office for a possible violation of election security protocols.
Douglas County Clerk and journalist Merlin Klotz was asked to answer questions from Secretary of State Jena Griswold about some images he allegedly took from election material servers.
The investigation comes about seven months after Griswold opened an investigation into Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters for allegedly allowing an unauthorized person access to election materials, and less than a month after the investigation. investigation into Elbert County clerk and reporter Dallas Schroeder for allegedly giving copies of election system hard drive images to two attorneys.
“There is a major distinction. In Mesa County, the county clerk compromises voting materials trying to prove conspiracies. We have no evidence that this happened in Elbert County or Douglas County. What we are investigating is a violation of election security protocol,” Griswold said.
The Secretary of State says she has no evidence to suspect, at this point, that Douglas County election equipment was compromised, but she wants to understand what happened and why.
Former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who was hired to temporarily oversee Mesa County elections, said clerks are authorized to make copies of election systems for backup under the law. However, they are not allowed to give these copies to anyone who is not authorized.
“So one of the questions that needs to be asked any time someone acquires an electoral record is whether they’re allowed to have it,” Williams said.
Until no one received a copy or image of the electoral system that they weren’t supposed to have, Williams isn’t sure Klotz actually did anything wrong.
“I hope they followed the law, they kept the copies, like all election records, safe. If you don’t, there are risks,” Williams said.
Lawrence Norden, senior director of elections and government program at the Brennan Center, paid attention to what is happening in Colorado with the various investigations. He says if Colorado’s election is the gold standard, all of these cases highlight a renewed need to review election security protocols.
“With these recent events happening in Colorado and elsewhere, we need to redouble our efforts and think about how to protect ourselves from insider threats,” Norden said. “There is clearly a concerted effort underway to get election officials to provide unauthorized access to systems. This is the lesson of Colorado.
The good news, Norden says, is that there are already plenty of security measures in place to protect votes. However, there is always a risk that someone accessing these systems could cause the machine to malfunction or be tampered with.
However, the machines are tested to ensure that they are working properly. Norden therefore believes that the greatest danger is that these cases could undermine confidence in our elections.
“My big concern in all of this is that it’s another avenue to make people doubt the integrity of the electoral system,” he said.
Electoral lawyer Mario Nicolais is also concerned about the effects these cases could have on our democracy.
“Perhaps it’s not so much irony as a self-fulfilling prophecy, that you’re talking about people, who say we have an election problem, are the ones creating the problems,” he said. declared.
Nicolais has made it clear that he doesn’t support anything Griswold has done during his tenure as secretary of state. He thinks there have been times when she has been too partisan for the position she holds. In this case, however, even with three Republican clerks under investigation, Nicolais believes Griswold is well on his way to investigating and questioning those clerks.
He also worries that these three cases will snowball into causing not just some Republicans to question the integrity of the election, but everyone else.
“It’s dangerous. It’s the kind of thing that we can’t have in our state, and to call on those election officials to reprimand for it, because otherwise we’re really on the verge of a very dangerous situation” , said Nicolais.
The Douglas County Clerk now has a week to answer questions from the Secretary of State.