According to a, Republicans attempted to hack voting systems in five different states eight times in search of evidence that a conspiracy theory that voting machines changed votes from President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden was false. Reuters investigation.
Trump and his allies targeted voting systems in Colorado (Colorado), North Carolina, Michigan. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Federal and local law enforcement are investigating at least five of these breaches. Four of the breaches required officials to decertify voting equipment or replace it due to security concerns. All of the attempts involved Republican officials or party activists who have pushed false claims about Trump’s election loss.
Four voting law experts told Reuters that the extent of the breaches is “unprecedented in modern U.S. elections.”
“You need to make sure that those ballots are maintained under strict chain of custody at all times,” David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, told the outlet. “It’s destroying voter confidence in the United States.”
Surveillance video from Reuters shows Republican Elbert County (Colo.) Clerk Dallas SchroederHe tried to copy data on sensitive voting hard drives. He later testified that he received instructions from a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist to make a “forensic image of everything on the election server.”
Schroeder is currently under investigation by Jena Griswold of Colorado Secretary-of-State Jena Griswold for possible violations of election laws. She also sued him in an attempt to force him into returning the data. Schroeder is refusing compliance with the state and identifying a lawyer who took hard drives. His other attorney works alongside a conspiracy theorist-backed activist Mike LindellMyPillow’s founder,.
Lindell funds numerous groups that have been trying to prove their conspiracy theory for years. Lindell told ReutersHe hired four U.S. citizens. Integrity Plan (USEIP), a pro Trump group that allegedly sent armed membersDoor-to-door, to investigate fraud claims in Colorado. He claimed that he had spent approximately $30 million on the effort and had employed 70 people.
“We’ve got to get rid of the machines!” Lindell told the outlet. “We need to melt them down and use them for prison bars and put everyone in prison that was involved with them.”
The false belief that state-mandated maintenance or upgrades to voting systems would erase evidence of fraud conspiracy theory is what prompted the breaches. Reuters was told by election officials that such updates do not affect the preservation of historical data.
But such breaches could violate voter privacy and underscore growing concerns of potential “insider threats,” officials told the outlet. Griswold’s office told Reuters that the data accessed by Schroeder likely included ballot images that showed how people cast their ballots.
Lindell was an ally in another Colorado incident Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk, allowed an unauthorized person to copy a “forensic image” of a voting system hard drive before sensitive passwords to access the voting system were published on right-wing conspiracy sites. Peters, who was indictedDominion and Griswold were falsely accused of conspiracy to destroy evidence of election rigging.
Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and many others pushed for baseless claimsDominion conspired with billionaire financier George Soros of China and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to rig the election against Trump. Dominion and Smartmatic, another voting machine company, were dragged into conspiracy theory despite not having any ties to Dominion. multi-billion-dollar defamation lawsuitsAmong others, against Giuliani Powell and Lindell.
Dominion reported Reuters that the conspiracy theories “have been repeatedly debunked, including by bipartisan government officials.”
It’s unclear whether any data was accessed in another apparent breach in Michigan’s Adams Township, where the key component of a ballot counting machine went missing for four days last fall before it was found at the office of a clerk who posted QAnon memes on social media. After refusing to provide maintenance as required by law, Stephanie Scott was removed from her duties by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in October. In February, she sued Benson alleging that she had been unconstitutionally punished.
In another incident in Cross Village, Michigan, a woman named Tera Jackson impersonated an official from the non-existent “Election Integrity Commission” to gain access to the town’s ballot-counting machine last January and tried to clone it. In exchange for the dropping of fraud and illegal access charges, she pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor. Three men that she worked with, including a former law enforcement officer who showed up with a bulletproof vest and a gun, gained access to a vote tabulator but don’t appear to have been able to clone the drive. Prosecutors said that the men were misled by Jackson and they were not charged.
The most recent breach occurred in March in North Carolina. Surrey County GOP Chair William Keith Senter threatened Michella Huff with firing if she didn’t give him access to a voting machine. Senter and conspiracy theorist Douglas Frank met Huff in March to claim that a “chip” inside the machine was used to rig the election. The state election board reported Huff’s threats to law enforcement.
“I’m very concerned for the voters,” Huff told Reuters. “Democracy starts here. It starts here in our office.”
Following the Colorado breaches Lindell appointed four USEIP members to lead Cause for America, a right-wing network that includes election conspiracists. Despite finding no evidence of fraud, the group has continued searching for evidence even though it has been unsuccessful since 2020.
“I have over probably 50 to 70 people that I pay, that all they’re doing is on this election,” Lindell told Reuters. “I guess Cause of America would be a little piece of that.”
Griswold accused election conspiracists seeking to suppress opposing votes.
“These threats are being fueled by extreme elected officials and political insiders who are spreading the Big Lie,” she told Reuters, “to further suppress the vote, destabilize American elections, and undermine voter confidence.”