FBI investigating alleged Mesa County election equipment breach

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that it is investigating the alleged security breach of election equipment at the Mesa County clerk’s office.

“The FBI is working with the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office on the forensic review and analysis of county voting systems to determine if there was a potential federal criminal violation,” FBI Denver office spokeswoman Courtney Bernal said. Colorado 21st Judicial District Attorney Dan Rubinstein declined to comment.

The FBI is the third agency to investigate the matter, joining Rubinstein’s office and the Colorado secretary of state’s office.

The secretary of state’s office started its probe earlier this month after passwords for Mesa County’s election equipment were posted on the social media site Telegram and right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, determined last week that the equipment must now be replaced. She also said Monday that Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican, cannot be trusted to oversee the fall election and Griswold will appoint someone to supervise the election.

The investigations all want to figure out how the passwords ended up online. The secretary of state’s office said in a news release Monday that it believes one photo of the equipment’s hard drives was taken on the evening of Sunday, May 23, and alleged Peters was present when it was taken.

Griswold said last week that her office believes another breach occurred during a software upgrade May 25 and that images taken then were the ones posted online. Surveillance cameras were turned off and an unauthorized person was allowed into a secure room, according to Griswold.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has also looked into the alleged breach. The agency has determined that the incident does not risk the integrity of elections in the state or the country, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Peters and a county spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. At a symposium in South Dakota last week, Peters questioned why the alleged leak of election equipment passwords was a problem.

“If those passwords were compromised, why can’t they just change them? How many of you have had to change your email password before? Is that a big deal? You just change it. We’re not in the middle of an election right now,” she said Thursday. “It’s not like some secret people came and did something nefarious.”

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