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Michigan widens probe into voting system breaches by Trump allies -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A person poses for a photograph forward of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech throughout a rally to spice up Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz forward of the Could 17 major election on the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Greensburg


By Nathan Layne and Peter Eisler

LANSING, Michigan (Reuters) – State police in Michigan have obtained warrants to grab voting tools and election-related data in at the very least three cities and one county prior to now six weeks, police data present, widening the most important identified investigation into unauthorized makes an attempt by allies of former President Donald Trump to entry voting techniques.

The beforehand unreported data embrace search warrants and investigators’ memos obtained by Reuters via public data requests. The paperwork reveal a flurry of efforts by state authorities to safe voting machines, ballot books, data-storage units and cellphone data as proof in a probe launched in mid-February.

The state’s investigation follows breaches of native election techniques in Michigan by Republican officers and pro-Trump activists attempting to show his baseless claims of widespread fraud within the 2020 election.

The police paperwork reveal, amongst different issues, that the state is investigating a possible breach of voting tools in Lake Township, a small, largely conservative neighborhood in northern Michigan’s Missaukee County. The beforehand unreported case is one in all at the very least 17 incidents nationwide, together with 11 in Michigan, by which Trump supporters gained or tried to achieve unauthorized entry to voting tools.

Lots of the breaches have been impressed partially by the false assertion that state-ordered voting-system upgrades or upkeep would erase proof of alleged voting fraud in 2020. State election officers, together with these in Michigan, say these processes don’t have any affect on the preservation of knowledge from previous elections.

The search warrants additionally approved state police to grab election tools in Barry County’s Irving Township and have it examined. Native officers acknowledged publicly final month that state police raided the township workplace on April 29, a day after the warrant was issued.

Moreover, the data shed new mild on election-equipment breaches in Roscommon County. One official within the county’s Richfield Township instructed investigators that he gave two vote-counting tabulators to an unauthorized and unidentified “third get together,” who stored them for a number of weeks in early 2021. The county’s clerk acknowledged that she, too, handed over her tools to unauthorized folks.

Taken collectively, these paperwork depict a statewide push by pro-Trump activists to entry election equipment looking for proof for debunked theories that tools was rigged in a vital swing state that voted for Trump in 2016 and for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson instructed Reuters that the state is investigating whether or not the election-system breaches are coordinated.

“If there’s coordination, whether or not it is amongst these in our state or reaching as much as a nationwide degree, we are able to decide that after which we are able to search accountability for all concerned,” Benson, a Democrat, mentioned in an interview.

On Feb. 10, Benson introduced that she had requested Michigan’s lawyer normal, Democrat Dana Nessel, to start a legal investigation, citing data that state authorities had obtained about unauthorized entry to voting machines and knowledge in Roscommon County. In separate inquiries, state or native regulation enforcement officers have investigated safety breaches involving voting tools in Cross Village Township in Emmet County and Adams Township in Hillsdale County final 12 months.

Representatives of the state police and lawyer normal’s workplace declined to touch upon the investigations detailed on this story.

Trump received all the counties the place breaches or tried breaches in Michigan have been alleged. The leads to these jurisdictions have been affirmed by a number of audits and an investigation by the Republican-controlled state senate, which discovered no proof of widespread fraud. However some activists and officers pushing election-fraud conspiracy theories declare that Trump’s margin ought to have been bigger in these areas, and their efforts are roiling communities throughout the state.

In rural Barry County, Republican Sheriff Dar Leaf has teamed with proponents of the debunked declare that voting machines have been rigged in opposition to Trump. Leaf is pursuing his personal investigation, regardless of being urged final 12 months by the Republican county prosecutor to droop it for lack of proof. Trump received the county by a 2-1 margin.

In current weeks, Leaf’s workplace has despatched expansive public data requests to the county’s township and metropolis clerks, in search of an array of election-related data. The requests have been condemned by clerks and native officers in Reuters interviews and public statements as baseless and burdensome. An editorial within the native newspaper, The Hastings Banner (NASDAQ:), referred to as Leaf’s probe “a waste of time and an affront to our residents.”

Leaf didn’t reply to requests for remark. In an interview with Reuters in February, he defended his investigation. He mentioned he was “involved” by theories that voting machines nationwide have been rigged to favor Biden, and “we have to know if that occurred in Barry County.”


The data obtained by Reuters present that in Lake Township, a neighborhood of about 2,800 folks in Missaukee County, state police obtained a warrant on April 22 to look the clerk’s workplace for proof of potential violations of election regulation.

Township Clerk Korrinda Winkelmann, an elected Republican who oversees native voting, declined to remark.

Missaukee County, the place Trump received in 2020 with 76% of the vote, is residence to Daire Rendon, a Republican state lawmaker who has embraced the bogus declare that widespread fraud robbed Trump of victory in 2020. Rendon approached a number of clerks in her district, which incorporates Missaukee, Roscommon and different counties, asking them to offer folks in search of fraud proof entry to their voting tools, Reuters beforehand reported

In December 2020, Rendon was one in all two Republican members of Michigan’s Home of Representatives who joined an unsuccessful federal lawsuit in search of to overturn Biden’s victory in 5 battleground states.

Rendon didn’t reply to requests for remark. In a Could 25 interview with the Cadillac Information, an area newspaper, she acknowledged contacting clerks however mentioned she “by no means touched a voting machine” and did nothing flawed.

State police are additionally stepping up an examination of alleged breaches in Roscommon County. In February, Secretary of State Benson mentioned unauthorized folks “gained inappropriate entry to tabulation machines and knowledge drives” used within the county and in one in all its townships, Richfield. Benson, nonetheless, didn’t title any suspects or present different particulars.

The state police data present that investigators are probing allegations that the Richfield Township supervisor allowed a “third get together” to take possession of the city’s two poll tabulators for a number of weeks in early 2021. The data determine the supervisor solely by title, not by title, however the county solely has one particular person in that place, Republican John Bawol.

The data element an interview with a “suspect.” The title and title is redacted however the suspect is described as an elected township official. The official instructed investigators he believed the tabulators have been taken to “the northern suburbs of Detroit” in early February by an unidentified group of individuals driving a small SUV. The tabulators weren’t returned till March, the official added. The official mentioned at one level he checked in with a lady, whose title is redacted, about when the machines can be returned, and “she suggested they have been nearly finished.”

State police discovered that each safety seals on one machine indicated that it had been tampered with, the data present. The seals have been intact on the opposite machine.

Greg Watt, the township clerk, whose job consists of safeguarding election tools, instructed investigators that he didn’t know the identification of the third get together who accessed the voting machines, in line with the data. Police paperwork determine Watt by title and name him a witness within the case.

Watt and Bawol didn’t reply to requests for remark.

The breaches are costing taxpayers cash. The Richfield Township Board voted on Could 25 to buy two new vote tabulators and three reminiscence units at a value of $8,763. The transfer was essential to “guarantee election integrity,” Watt mentioned on the board assembly, in line with an audio recording reviewed by Reuters.

State police have additionally sought to query the Roscommon county clerk in reference to a separate alleged voting system breach, the police data reveal. The county clerk, whose title is redacted within the paperwork, is Michelle Stevenson, a Republican.

In February, the county clerk acknowledged to a state election official that she had offered a knowledge storage drive containing election data “for one or each” of Richfield Township’s vote tabulators to an unidentified third get together, in line with an e-mail from the official to police, by which the title of the clerk was additionally redacted. She additionally gave the particular person entry to one in all Roscommon County’s vote-tabulating machines, in line with the e-mail.

When state investigators tried to interview the county clerk on Feb. 17, she indicated a willingness to talk with police however declined to debate the matter at the moment, the police data present.

Two weeks later, on March 2, investigators executed a search warrant on Stevenson’s workplace, accompanied by representatives of Election Techniques & Software program LLC, the Nebraska-based producer of voting machines utilized in Roscommon County, the data present.

Stevenson declined to remark. Election Techniques & Software program didn’t reply to requests for remark.