Nov 1, 2022 - News

Colorado increases penalties for election breaches after 2020 election

Illustration collage of a ballot torn in half, which each piece overlapping to form an "X"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Colorado officials say the state is better prepared to prevent security failures during the midterms after two successful pro-Trump election breaches related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Beyond the threats to election workers and disruption from extremist groups, the election tampering is more serious and came from county clerks who acted as rogue agents or pawns of former President Trump's claims of voter fraud.

Catch up quick: Mesa County clerk Tina Peters and her deputy were indicted on criminal charges related to election tampering after allowing an unauthorized person to make a "forensic image" of a voting machine's hard drive and access sensitive information, some of which was later published on the internet.

  • In Elbert County, clerk Dallas Schroeder also made copies of voting records in coordination with Shawn Smith, a retired Air Force colonel and activist trying to find election fraud.

What's happening: The incidents prompted Colorado election officials and lawmakers to pass a new law earlier this year that puts $1.1 million toward making it harder for breaches to occur by increasing security cameras and key-card access.

  • The legislation increased penalties by making it a felony to access voting equipment or election-night reporting systems without authorization.

What they're saying: "The hope is that clerks follow the law now and this type of thing does not happen," said Matt Crane, the executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

Of note: Peters and Schroeder were removed from their roles as election supervisor in this year's primary and general elections.

  • The state also appointed an outside election supervisor to replace Pueblo County clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz, a Democrat, after mistakes created voter confusion in the primary election.

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