The Michigan State Police launched a criminal investigation this week after a piece of election equipment went missing.
The inquiry comes after a local official—who has publicly questioned the validity and security of the 2020 election—had refused to allow a vendor to run maintenance on the machine. Adams Township Clerk Stephanie Scott had been stripped of her election administration authority on Monday for failing to confirm that she would follow state law in certifying that public accuracy testing had been completed.
Scott had allegedly removed a tablet that was part of a voting machine, though authorities said they had recovered the device in question.
A spokesperson for the Michigan State Police told CyberScoop Friday that the agency executed a search warrant in the rural community as part of an investigation requested by the Secretary of State, but declined to offer any additional information.
Late Friday, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State announced that the missing equipment was recovered at the township call, and that the “investigation to determine if it was tampered with is ongoing. In the interim, the Secretary will continue fighting to hold accountable anyone who threatens the integrity or security of Michigan elections.” Scott did not respond to a request for comment.
This is the second example in recent months of election officials taking extreme measures with respect to voting equipment as part of what some worry is the growing insider threat of rogue election officials. In May, a Colorado clerk allowed an unauthorized employee to access and make a digital copy of the hard drive for one of her county’s voting machines. That data was eventually passed to conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins, a key figure behind the far-right QAnon movement.
Scott, a Republican with a history of posting QAnon-related messaging and questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election, told Bridge Michigan that she didn’t trust the Hart Intercivic Inc. voting machine and wanted to preserve any old data on it. Michigan officials of both parties have repeatedly asserted the state’s elections are safe, pointing to more than 250 individual audits and reviews since the 2020 elections. In June, a Republican-led investigation found no proof of systemic fraud, and recommended that the state attorney general investigate and criminally charge those seeking to profit off of false information about the election.
“The county clerk’s office and now Secretary of State are demanding I drop off my machine for unfettered access, and God only knows what to it,” Scott told Bridge Michigan.
Marney Kast, the Republican county clerk the state put in charge of running the local election, told the news outlet that her office tried to get the machine, but that it was unable to locate it. Kast said county officials were able to obtain a tabulator case, only to unlock the device to find the “tablet” missing.
Scott is one of more than 1,500 local clerks that administer elections in Michigan’s decentralized election system. Former President Trump received 76% of the vote in Adams Township.
The state has been at the center of rampant disinformation related to the 2020 election after President Joe Biden carried the perennial battleground by more than 154,000 votes over Trump.
A human-caused reporting error in Antrim County in the northern part of the state has been at the center of claims from Trump supporters that election equipment was rigged to swing the election to Biden as part of a sprawling international plot to hack voting systems, even after a state-commissioned report by one of the nation’s top election security experts debunked the claims.