Tina Peters should resign from her job as Mesa County Clerk and Recorder.
The county’s top election official should recognize that she’s lost the confidence of voters — not just for an embarrassment that occurred under her watch, but also by the way she’s ducked accountability for it.
Since 2016 we’ve been told by national security officials that Russian meddling poses the biggest threat to election security in this country. We just learned the hard way that indifference by a local elections chief is far more damaging.
Could foreign interference have gotten 574 Mesa County ballots tossed from the last general election? Sloppy management did. Either Peters had no process in place to prevent this abuse of the franchise from occurring or she did and ignored it.
Once the issue came to light, Peters apologized and said she accepted full responsibility for it — then proceeded to throw her elections staff under the bus. An unnamed former worker is to blame, Peters said.
If Peters had any sense of accountability, she wouldn’t be trying to distance herself from a problem she created. She runs the elections division. She hires and fires and puts people in place to discharge the duties of her office. She comes up with systems that are supposed to ensure that EVERY ballot is collected and counted.
It was clear when Peters was campaigning that she had zero experience. The institutional knowledge she inherited by way of veteran staff seems to have been diluted by considerable churn within her department.
In 15 months on the job, nearly two dozen members of her 32-person staff have quit, including her chief deputy and head elections supervisor.
Back in December, the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby delved into the county clerk’s staffing issues. His story included this snippet: “Peters said part of her management style doesn’t sit well with everyone. She hires people for full-time positions on a temporary basis at first to see if they fit. If they don’t, they either leave or find other jobs in the office they are more suited for, Peters said.”
Perhaps Peters should follow her own lead. Since she’s clearly not a fit with one of the most important aspects of the job — fostering voter confidence — it’s time for her to go. Further, she’s admitted she can’t handle more than one election at once, leaving Fruita, Palisade and Collbran on their own to handle their municipal elections.
Peters’s predecessor, Sheila Reiner, said that while county clerk offices aren’t required to run municipal elections, it’s been a decades-old tradition in Mesa County because those cities, which are billed for running their elections, end up saving thousands of dollars in taxpayer money. The county has the capacity to run up to four elections, but that capacity is wasted — to the taxpayers’ detriment — by a public servant unqualified to fulfill her duties.
A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said the office’s county regulation support manager is to arrive in Grand Junction today to review election procedures in Peters’s office to see if they are being followed properly.
That spokesman, Steve Hurlbert, said the review shouldn’t be seen as a formal investigation or intervention, though that can be a result. At any rate, the state is having to step in ahead of Super Tuesday to make sure the will of Mesa County voters is faithfully recorded.
This community lurches from one self-inflicted embarrassment to another. Why do we put up with so much incompetence?
We shouldn’t. If Peters won’t resign, perhaps a recall attempt will convince her that we take elections — and competent governance — seriously around here.