Election tampering investigation, 2020 results take central role in Colorado’s Republican primary for secretary of state

Pam Anderson, Mike O’Donnell, and Tina Peters—are running in the Republican primary for Colorado secretary of state on June 28, 2022. The winner will face incumbent Jena Griswold (D) in the November 8 general election. Anderson and Peters, both with experience serving as county clerks, have led in fundraising and media attention.

The Colorado Sun‘s Jesse Paul wrote, “In virtually every major Republican primary race in Colorado this year … voters will have a choice between a candidate or candidates who … believe the outcome of the last presidential election was fraudulent and those who don’t.” Regarding the secretary of state primary, Paul described the candidates as, “Peters … [who is] under indictment in a breach of her county’s voting system that she’s accused of orchestrating as part of her efforts to uncover fraud … [and] Anderson, who rejects 2020 election fraud claims.”

Peters’ indictment has taken a central role in the race. On March 8, 2022, a grand jury in Mesa County indicted Peters on 10 felony and misdemeanor charges as part of an election tampering investigation following the unauthorized release of confidential digital images and passwords associated with the county’s election equipment.

Following Peters’ indictment, Anderson said, “I believe in public service, respect for the law, respect for public safety professionals and upholding the oath I took as an elected official,” adding, “It is time to remove the distractions & return a competent & trusted professional back to the office.” Peters said she was innocent and described the investigation as an effort by Griswold to weaken her candidacy, saying, in a separate statement, “in this Republican primary the voters have two choices. Vote for a public servant who has become a persecuted enemy of the left, while doing her sworn duty,” referring to herself, “[o]r vote for a friend of the progressive power structure,” referring to Anderson.

Anderson was the Wheat Ridge City Clerk from 2003 to 2007 and the Jefferson County Clerk from 2007 to 2015. After leaving office, Anderson headed the Colorado County Clerks Association from 2015 to 2020. Anderson, who highlighted her experience as a city and county clerk, said she was “[t]he only candidate with a record of securing Colorado’s elections,” and that she ensured the use of paper ballots, made ballots public record, and implemented election audits. Anderson received endorsements from three former Republican secretaries of state and The Colorado Springs Gazette.

Peters is the Mesa County Clerk, first elected in 2018. Peters said, as county clerk, she discovered irregularities with the state’s voting systems and that she would “do away with mail-in voting because there is too much fraud involved” and “get rid of the machines, go back to a simpler way that is accountable and sustainable.” Peters said she was the only Republican candidate who could defeat Griswold in the general election, whom she described as “the real enemy of our state, who wants to consolidate elections … [and] be the tyrant over you.” Peters received endorsements from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former candidate David Winney (R).

In Colorado, candidates can qualify for the primary ballot either through a party convention or by submitting the requisite number of signatures. Peters and O’Donnell qualified through the Republican Party convention. Anderson did not participate in the convention and qualified by submitting signatures.

Republicans controlled the secretary of state’s office, which manages the state’s elections and oversees business registrations, from 1962 until Griswold defeated Wayne Williams (R) in 2018, receiving 53% of the vote to Williams’ 45%. Joe Biden (D) won Colorado with 55% of the vote to Donald Trump’s (R) 42% in the 2020 presidential election.