Michigan authorities expand investigation into voting machine access

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan State Police have seized a tabulator in a township in Barry County as part of an ongoing investigation into unauthorized access to voting machines.

Jamie Knight, the supervisor in Irving Township, disclosed the seizure in a Thursday statement in which she said authorities, including Attorney General Dana Nessel's office, had obtained a search warrant and executed it on April 29.

The search was first reported by WOOD-TV, a Grand Rapids-area TV station.

Investigators had "expanded" a probe that began with a complaint in Roscommon County "to other counties," said Lt. Derrick Carroll, a spokesman for the Michigan State Police.

"This is an open investigation, and we will continue to investigate allegations of unauthorized access to tabulation machines until we have exhausted all leads," Carroll said in a statement. "This alleged unauthorized access did not, in any way, affect the 2020 election."

Carroll didn't specify how many counties were now entangled in the investigation or why the probe had expanded.

In February, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked the Attorney General's office and the Michigan State Police to investigate reports that an "unnamed third party" was granted access to voting technology in Roscommon County.

At the time, Benson, a Democrat and the state's top election official, sent a letter to clerks across the state, saying Michigan law was "clear that unauthorized third parties may not have access to election technology and data."

"Our office has recently received multiple credible allegations of instances in which an unauthorized third party has been granted access to vote tabulation machines in violation of Michigan law," Benson's letter said.

At least one third party allegedly gained inappropriate access to tabulation machines and data drives used in Richfield Township and Roscommon County, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Such access could require the equipment to be replaced at taxpayer expense, the office previously said.

Roscommon County Clerk Michelle Stevenson and Richfield Township Clerk Greg Watt didn't respond to past requests for comment. Richfield Township in northern Michigan is a three-hour drive away from Irving Township in west Michigan.

Knight, the supervisor in Irving Township, declined Thursday evening to provide additional details about what authorities might be investigating.

"The township intends to fully cooperate with law enforcement, and the township attorneys have been in contact with the Michigan State Police regarding this matter," Knight's statement said. "The township has no further comment at this time."

Benson's spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer referred questions about the investigation to the Michigan State Police and the Attorney General's office.

The investigation comes amid intense scrutiny of Michigan's November 2020 presidential election. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points, but he continues to make unproven claims that fraud cost him the race.

Biden's victory on Nov. 3, 2020, has been upheld by a series of court decisions, more than 200 audits and an investigation by the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate Oversight Committee.

cmauger@detroitnews.com