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Hillsdale clerk to use county election equipment after township tabulator item goes missing

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Hillsdale County clerk will use county election equipment to conduct the Adams Township elections Nov. 2 after discovering a key element of a township tabulator is missing. 

The missing equipment is the "subject of a pending criminal investigation," said Tracy Wimmer, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office.

The missing equipment, first reported by Bridge Michigan, is the latest twist in the recent, rare removal from election responsibilities of a Michigan township clerk who had raised unfounded allegations about the security of township voting equipment and refused to submit the tools for maintenance. 

Hillsdale County Clerk Marney Kast said she retrieved the township tabulator Monday after state Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater removed Adams Township Clerk Stephanie Scott from her duties related to the election and tasked Kast's office with administering the township election. 

Scott did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Deon Harper, 50, of Oak Park, inserts his ballot in the tabulator after voting.

Kast, a Republican, said her office retrieved the tabulator, which was in a locked suitcase, and a voter assist terminal and brought them back to the county office to prepare for a Wednesday public accuracy test. 

When she opened the tabulator suitcase Tuesday, the tabulator tablet — which Kast described as the "brains of the tabulator" — was missing. 

Kast's office contacted Scott and asked her to return the tablet by 8 a.m. Wednesday, but Scott responded that she was in contact with an attorney, Kast said. Scott did not say whether she had the tablet. 

"We performed a public accuracy test last night on the county’s equipment which we will be using for the election," Kast said Thursday. 

Scott, a Republican elected late last year, was removed Monday from her election responsibilities by the state for failing to comply with state requirements regarding the township's voting equipment. 

The Michigan Bureau of Elections maintains Scott refused to perform preventative maintenance or perform and sign off on public accuracy testing on township voting equipment. She also is alleged to have failed to confirm that she would use certified Hart Intercivic Inc. voting equipment, the township's current vendor, for future elections.

"Your past statements, detailed in prior letters, indicate that you are unwilling to fulfill your responsibilities as clerk, and you have failed to confirm that you will fulfill them in response to recent correspondence," Brater wrote. 

Scott, who told The Detroit News Monday that she now considers herself more of an independent, has wrestled with the Elections Bureau over the past several months over concerns she had about the security of the township's tabulators. 

Scott, who has various QAnon material on her social media account, told The News she didn't want to turn the township tabulator in for maintenance because she feared the county would erase information on the equipment, particularly as it related to the November 2020 presidential election. 

Brater noted in correspondence with the clerk that all data from the November 2020 and March 2021 elections was being stored in an election management system run by Hillsdale County. He also said the required biennial maintenance of the equipment would not "destroy any records required to be maintained under federal or state law."

Lawsuits challenging President Joe Biden's 154,000-vote win over former Republican President Donald Trump in Michigan cited similar concerns about tabulator security and internet connectivity. 

None of the lawsuits were successful and several of the individuals who filed the litigation were ordered sanctioned by a federal judge in August. The judge found dozens of affidavits signed by individuals who claimed to have witnessed wrongdoing in Michigan's election were based on conjecture, speculation and guesswork.

Dozens of teams of county canvassers, state legislative inquiries and more than 250 audits performed by Democratic and Republican clerks confirmed the results of the election.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com