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An indicted election denier is aiming for Colorado’s top elections post

By Eric Bradner, CNN

A version of this story appeared in the CITIZEN BY CNN newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk and Colorado’s most prominent voter fraud conspiracy theorist, is vying for the GOP nomination for secretary of state in Tuesday’s primary. A win would make her the latest in a line of election deniers nominated by Republicans for roles that would position them, if they win this fall, to take over their states’ election machinery in time for the 2024 presidential race.

Peters’ chief opponent is Pam Anderson, a former county clerk and former head of the state’s county clerks’ association, who has defended Colorado’s vote-by-mail system and is running as a competent technocrat. The winner will face Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold in November.

Peters and her top deputy were indicted in March after an investigation by local authorities into a security breach that resulted in confidential voting machine logins, and forensic images of their hard drives, being published in a QAnon-affiliated Telegram channel in early August 2021. In May, after a lawsuit brought by Griswold, a district judge stripped Peters of her duties overseeing this year’s elections in Mesa County. She has pleaded not guilty.

How do Republican primary voters feel about Peters? Over the weekend, I went to Grand Junction, the city on Colorado’s Western Slope that is Mesa County’s seat, and asked people who were out shopping on Saturday morning just blocks from Peters’ office.

“She’s a crook and should not be running for secretary of state,” said Tammy Reece, a 65-year-old retiree.

“The system did have a flaw. And that is, the very person who was supposed to protect it had the passwords to it, and opened it up,” said her husband Bob Reece, 75, also a retiree. “I mean, it’s been well-documented in the local paper about all the things that Peters has been accused of. And as the allegations go through court, it’s going to be a continuum of decisions. … I was shocked that she was running for any public office. You lose your job here, and you want the one above it?”

Chad Kent, a 25-year-old freight handler and unaffiliated voter, said he chose to vote in the Republican primary because the heavily GOP area lacked competitive Democratic races. He voted for Anderson over Peters.

His wife Daria Kent, a 24-year-old teacher and unaffiliated voter who also opted to cast a Republican primary ballot, offered a stinging assessment of Peters: “Yes, there was voter fraud. She caused it.”

Still, Peters has supporters. She’s backed by a host of far-right figures and has dramatically outraised her rivals. Republicans in Colorado who believe the state’s all-mail voting system is rife for fraud, or buy into her falsehoods about voting machines, could carry her through Tuesday’s primary. “I think that there’s a lot of questions (about election fraud) and enough people are questioning it,” said Sierra, a Republican voter who declined to give her last name, citing privacy concerns.

Rural Nevada County pushes primary vote certification to its deadline

A week after Republican county commissioners in a rural New Mexico county, citing debunked conspiracy theories about voting machines, briefly refused to certify the results of the primary election there, a rural Nevada county waited until less than two hours before its deadline to certify its own results.

Esmeralda County — the least populated county in Nevada, with just 317 votes cast in the state’s June 14 primary — balked on certifying its results when commissioners met last Thursday.

The next day, two county commissioners and election workers spent seven hours hand-counting every ballot, The Associated Press reported. Less than two hours before the state’s midnight deadline, the commission voted 2-0 to certify the results.

It was the culmination of a chaotic certification across the state — a process that ordinarily proceeds with no attention or drama. Republicans in Clark and Washoe counties hectored commissioners during hearings at which they certified their primary results. The Nevada Independent has much more on the raucous scenes that played out across the state.

Nevada represented the latest example of how conspiracy theories about voter fraud are playing out in the real world, where local officials are attempting to administer elections. Another example worth watching: In Arizona, the Republican National Committee is casting suspicion on the process of counting ballots in training programs for polling place observers, worrying experienced elections officials who say observers are there to watch for violations of the law without causing disturbances. Veteran Arizona reporter Jen Fifield of Votebeat has that story.

Primaries in Illinois, Colorado and more happening Tuesday

Capping off a frenetic month of primaries and runoffs, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma and Utah are holding primaries on Tuesday. There are also runoffs in South Carolina and Mississippi, and a special general election for the open 1st Congressional District seat in Nebraska.

In Colorado, in addition to the GOP secretary of state primary, I’m watching the Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it’s a race in which abortion has taken center stage. Businessman Joe O’Dea, who supports abortion rights aside from late-term abortions, faces state Rep. Ron Hanks, who opposes abortion in all cases. Hanks also attended the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol, and has parroted false conspiracy theories about voting machines and widespread election fraud.

I’ll also be watching a slew of House primaries in Illinois, including two that pit incumbents against each other. In the 6th District in Chicago’s western suburbs, two Democrats, Reps. Sean Casten and Marie Newman, are squaring off for the party’s nomination in a Democratic-leaning district that could be competitive in November if the national political environment continues to favor Republicans.

And in the 15th District in southern Illinois, Republican Rep. Mary Miller, a freshman who appeared on stage alongside former President Donald Trump at a rally over the weekend, faces the more moderate GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in a race that’ll test Trump’s influence.

There’s also a billionaire-vs.-billionaire battle for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor featuring two candidates whose campaigns have received many millions in contributions from their wealthiest donors: Richard Irvin, the first Black mayor of Aurora who is backed by the billionaire Ken Griffin, and Darren Bailey, a conservative state senator who is backed by another billionaire Republican donor, Dick Uihlein, are facing off. Bailey is backed by another wealthy, influential figure who could prove decisive in the race: Trump. The former President endorsed Bailey and rallied with him over the weekend.

You need to read

  • This story from CNN’s Ethan Cohen and Rachel Janfaza on the Democratic National Committee, which is weighing changes to its presidential nominating calendar, hearing pitches from the 16 states and Puerto Rico that want to go first in the process.
  • This story from the Detroit News’ Craig Mauger about Norm Shinkle, a Republican member of the board in charge of certifying Michigan’s elections and the board’s only member who did not vote to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, resigning just months from this year’s midterms. His departure means the Michigan Republican Party will have to submit a list of three names to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who will choose one to replace Shinkle. It’s a curveball in a marquee swing state at a time when GOP activists, embracing Trump’s lies about election fraud, are putting pressure on officials to refuse to certify elections.
  • This story from CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski about newly elected Republican Rep. Mayra Flores, who spread conspiracies on social media that the January 6 riot at the US Capitol was caused by members of the far-left group Antifa and repeatedly used a hashtag of the QAnon conspiracy theory in tweets that have since been removed.

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