November 26, 2022

Exclusive: Michigan expands probe into Trump allies voting irregularities

Lansing, Michigan, June 6 (Reuters) – State police in Michigan have issued warrants for the seizure of voting equipment and election-related records in at least three cities and a district over the past six weeks. Unauthorized attempts by former President Donald Trump’s allies to access voting systems.

Previously undeclared records include search warrants obtained by Reuters through public registration requests and notes from investigators. The documents reveal evidence of state officials’ efforts to secure ballot machines, ballot books, data-storage devices and telephone records as evidence in an investigation that began in mid-February.

The state’s investigation follows the violation of local election systems in Michigan by Republican officials and pro-Trump activists trying to prove his unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

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Police documents reveal that the government is investigating the possibility of a breach of voting equipment in Lake Township, a small, mostly conservative community in northern Michigan’s Michigan County. The previously unannounced lawsuit is one of at least 17 incidents across the country, including 11 in Michigan, in which Trump supporters gained or attempted to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment.

Many violations have been triggered by the false promise that by 2020 the voting system will have undergone upgrades or maintenance to destroy evidence of alleged voter fraud. State election officials, including those in Michigan, say those processes will have no impact. Preserving data of past elections.

Search warrants authorized state police to seize election equipment and inspect it in Irving Township, Barry County. Local officials publicly admitted last month that they raided the state police township office on April 29, a day after the warrant was issued.

In addition, records shed light on election equipment violations in Roskaman County. An official in the county’s Richfield township told investigators that he had given two ballot counting tablets to unauthorized and unidentified “third parties” who had kept them for several weeks in early 2021. The county clerk admitted that he also handed over his equipment. For unauthorized persons.

Taken together, it depicts a statewide drive by pro-Trump activists to access the electoral machinery in search of evidence for the eliminated theories of equipment fraud in a crucial swing that voted for Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden of the Democrats in 2020.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told Reuters the government is investigating whether electoral irregularities were consolidated.

“If there is integration, whether it is between those in our state or at the national level, we can determine it and then seek accountability from everyone involved,” Benson, a Democrat, said in an interview.

On Feb. 10, Benson announced that he had asked Michigan Attorney General Democrat Dana Nessell to begin a criminal investigation, citing information received by state officials about unauthorized access to voting machines and data in Roskaman County. In separate investigations, state or local law enforcement officials last year investigated security violations involving voting equipment in Cross Village Township in Emmet County and Adams Township in Hillstale County.

Representatives from the state police and the attorney general’s office declined to comment on the investigations described in the story.

Trump has won in all the districts in Michigan where there have been alleged breaches or breach attempts. The results of those jurisdictions were confirmed by several audits and hearings by the Republican-controlled state Senate, which found no evidence of widespread fraud. But some activists and officials who put forward election-fraud conspiracy theories say Trump’s margin should have been higher in these areas, and their efforts are shaking communities across the state.

In rural Barry County, Republican Sheriff Dor Leaf has joined supporters of a claim that voting machines were rigged against Trump. Leaf is continuing his own investigation, which last year was pushed by a Republican district attorney to suspend it for lack of evidence. Trump won the county 2-1.

In recent weeks, the Leaf office has sent out detailed public registration requests to township and city clerks in the district, requesting a list of election-related records. Reuters interviews and public statements denounced the claims as unsubstantiated and burdensome by clerks and local officials. An editorial in the local newspaper, The Hastings Banner, called the leaf’s investigation “a waste of time and a disgrace to our citizens.”

Leaf did not respond to requests for comment. In an interview with Reuters in February, he backed his investigation. He said he was “concerned” by the principles that voting machines across the country had been rigged in support of Biden, and that “we need to know if it happened in Barry County.”

‘Inappropriate access’

Records obtained by Reuters show that in Lake Township, Mizuki County, about 2,800 people received a state police warrant on April 22 to search the clerk’s office for evidence of election law violations.

Township Clerk Corinda Wingelman, an elected Republican who oversees local voting, declined to comment.

Missouki County, where Trump won with 76% of the vote in 2020, is home to Republican state legislator Dyer Rendon, who accepted the bogus claim that Trump’s victory in 2020 was rigged by widespread fraud. Renton approached several writers in his district. Missoukee, which includes Roscommon and other districts, is requesting that individuals seeking evidence of fraud be given access to their voting equipment, Reuters previously reported.

In December 2020, Rendon was one of two Republican members of Michigan’s House of Representatives who joined a failed federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Biden’s victory in five war states.

Rendon did not respond to requests for comment. In an interview with the local Cadillac News on May 25, he acknowledged that he had contacted the clerk, but said he had “not touched the voting machine” and had done nothing wrong.

State police have also stepped up investigations into alleged violations in Roscomen County. In February, Secretary of State Benson said unauthorized persons had “inappropriate access” to the tabulation machines and data drives used in the county and one of its cities, Richfield. However, Benson did not specify any suspects or provide other details.

State police records show that in early 2021, investigators were investigating allegations that the Richfield Township supervisor had for weeks allowed two “third parties” to seize the city’s ballot tables. Records identify the supervisor only by title, not by name. But there is only one Republican in that province, John Paul.

Records describe an interview with a “suspect”. The name and title have been changed, but the suspect is described as the elected city official. The official told investigators that he believed the tablets were “taken to the northern suburbs of Detroit” by unidentified individuals driving a small SUV in early February. The tables were not returned until March, the official added. At one point the officer said he had checked-in with a woman whose name had been corrected and “advised that they were almost finished” when the machines would be returned.

State police found two security seals on a machine that had been tampered with, records show. The seals on the other machine were the same.

Township Clerk Greg Watt, who is in charge of securing election equipment, told investigators he did not know the identity of the third party who approached the voting machines, according to records. Police documents identify Watt by name and call him a witness in the case.

Watt and Paul did not respond to requests for comment.

Violations cost taxpayers money. The Richfield Township Board voted May 25 to purchase two new ballot boxes and three memory devices for $ 8,763. Watt told the board meeting that the move was necessary to “ensure electoral unity”, according to an audio recording reviewed by Reuters.

Police records reveal that state police also attempted to interrogate a Roscommon County writer in connection with a breach of a separate voting system. Michelle Stevenson of the Republican Party, whose name has been amended in the documents.

In February, the district clerk admitted to a state election official that he had provided an unidentified third party with a data storage drive containing election information for “one or two” on the Richfield Township ballot. The name of the author was also corrected. According to the email, he also gave the person permission to access one of Roskaman County’s voting machines.

When state investigators tried to interview the district clerk on Feb. 17, he expressed a desire to speak with police but at the time refused to discuss the matter, police records show.

Two weeks later, on March 2, investigators at Stevenson’s office, along with representatives of Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software LLC, conducted a search warrant for used voting machines in Roskaman County, records show.

Stevenson declined to comment. Electoral systems & software did not respond to requests for comment.

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Report by Nathan Lane and Peter Eisler; Editing by Jason Sepp and Brian Devenot

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.