Michigan election worker charged with tampering with voting materials

September 28 (Reuters) – An election worker in a western Michigan town has been charged with two felonies after he allegedly inserted a USB drive into a computer containing confidential voter registration data during an election in August, local officials said Wednesday.

During the Aug. 2 primary, an election worker was seen inserting a USB drive into the computer used to administer the election in a constituency in Gaines Township in Kent County, according to a statement from the County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

The incident highlights the so-called risk of an “insider threat” that is increasingly worrying election officials, especially in battleground states like Michigan, where lies about systemic voter fraud in the election of 2020 have spread the most widely.

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“This incident is extremely egregious and incredibly alarming. Not only is it a violation of Michigan law, it is a violation of the public trust and the oath that all election workers are required to take,” said Lyons in the release.

Chris Becker, the county attorney, said he charged election worker James Donald Holkeboer with falsifying voter records and using a computer to commit a crime. If found guilty, he faces up to nine years in prison.

Holkeboer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Although Lyons did not name Holkeboer, she said the incident involved one of ‘ordinary citizens trained and certified by clerks to work in absentee constituencies and county councils’ and was not an employee. of Gaines County or Township.

The poll worker was seen by a witness in a Gaines Township precinct inserting a USB drive into the electronic poll book, the computer used to administer the election. The poll book contains voter registration data, including confidential information prohibited from publication under Michigan law.

Lyons said the breach did not impact the outcome of the August primary because it occurred after the files had already been saved to the precinct’s encrypted system. She said the poll book is not connected to any tabulation equipment or the internet.

There have been a series of security breaches related to voting equipment in Michigan following the 2020 presidential election, with supporters of former President Donald Trump and his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud seeking access to tabulators in various locations across the state.

Last month, Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, appointed a special prosecutor to oversee the criminal investigation her office had launched into the security breaches. She sought to withdraw from the investigation because her Republican opponent in the November election, Matt DePerno, was among nine people likely to be charged.

A spokesperson for Michigan’s secretary of state said damaged equipment in Gaines Township has been taken out of service and will not be used in the November general election.

“While our elections remain safe and secure, we take all violations of election law seriously and will continue to work with the relevant authorities to ensure there are consequences for those who break the law,” said Angela Benander. in an emailed statement.

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Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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