In the ongoing election war, one troubling tactic has emerged over the past two years: attempts to gain unauthorized access to electoral systems, including trying to force local authorities to grant access to voting machines.
Election conspiracy theorists and those who believe them, seeking to shore up Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election, have in some cases taken matters into their own hands.
Now, well over a year after President Biden was sworn in and with the 2022 midterm elections on the horizon, there is no sign that prominent Republican officials will stop lying about the election, forming the basis for yet more attempts to overthrow democracy and steal power.
But to do that, they need water – fake “evidence” to fuel a modern propaganda effort of massive proportions. And for that, right-wingers supporting the Big Lie have repeatedly engaged in alleged criminal, or borderline criminal, activity to gain access to these machines.
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The best-known example of this is Tina Peters, the leading Republican candidate for secretary of state from Colorado. As clerk of Mesa County, Colorado, Peters was charged in an indictment by a federal grand jury with conspiring to circumvent her office’s security protocols, including allegedly stealing the identity of a local resident, resulting in an election data leak that was later made public by the QAnon. conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
Reuters published an article on Thursday detailing several troubling examples of this dynamic. See if you can detect the pattern:
Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder was seen on surveillance video last August “playing with cables and tapping on his phone as he copied computer drives containing sensitive voting information,” reported Reuters.
Schroeder publicly admitted that he made copies of system data, which he then passed on to others. He also acknowledged receiving outside advice from Shawn Smith and Mark Cook, both of whom are linked to Lindell.
Dobson, North Carolina
Last month in North Carolina, as Reuters first reported, Surry County Republican Party Chairman William Keith Senter threatened to fire County Chief Electoral Officer Michella Huff if she did not grant him and another man access to county voting machines — in violation of state law limiting who can access those machines.
The other man with Senter was Douglas Frank, a prominent Big Lie conspiracy theorist whose central claim amounts to “claiming that Usain Bolt was cheating because you averaged the results of five of his races and discovered that all of his results were close to that. average,” as the Washington Post explained.
“I can’t wait to see you go down,” Senter told Huff at one point, Reuters reported.
Township of Cross Village, Michigan
In Cross Village Township, Michigan, Tera Jackson faced felony charges — but ultimately pleaded no contest to a single misdemeanor — after she attempted to make a copy of the township’s vote tabulator, in party claiming to belong to the “Electoral Integrity Commission”.
The story is insane: Jackson assembled a group of three men – a local computer technician, a township administrator and a former law enforcement officer armed with a gun and a bulletproof vest. The trio made their way to the clerk’s office and managed to access a ballot tabulator. A responding sheriff’s deputy arrived on scene to find the tabulator open, with an internal computer removed and screws stripped.
“Is this a legit thing?” the video showed the township clerk asking the men as she granted them access to the machine. The trio apparently thought so, later claiming they were tricked by Jackson.
It took months for authorities to act on an arrest warrant for Jackson, whose location was unknown.
Adams Township, Michigan
In Adams Township, Michigan, Clerk Stephanie Scott was removed from her post in October after she refused to perform required maintenance on an election machine, fearing it would destroy “evidence” of… something .
When county officials confiscated the city’s tabulator, they discovered a key component was missing. An investigation is underway.
This is just the beginning !
Across the country, TPM reporting showed multiple shady efforts around local election machinery, as well as efforts to disguise meaningless internet data as nefarious-looking digital fodder.
In Michigan, right-wing sheriff Dar Leaf sent a deputy and private investigator from township to township, grilling local clerks on their procedures based on second-hand information that Leaf said came from… Mike Lindell. The private investigator, according to a local report, was recommended by Stefanie Lambert Junttila, one of several attorneys sanctioned by a district judge for their work to overturn the 2020 election. Lambert Junttila also represents Stephanie Scott, mentioned above -above.
An early and crucial example of this dynamic occurred in County Antrim, Michigan, in the days following the 2020 election, when former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne flew a group of officers in the area aboard a private jet. Officers managed to take photos of the voting boards, which were used to obtain an order from a judge allowing them access to the voting machines. These digital images were supposed to stay with the parties at trial, but they eventually showed up at August’s “Cyber Symposium” on voter fraud hosted by… Mike Lindell.
In fact, Lindell appears frequently in these stories: he is an active supporter of Tina Peters – data from Peters’ office was also shared at Lindell’s symposium, and Lindell later claimed he was funding Peters’ legal defense . Lindell also hired several members of the US Election Integrity Plan, an influential Colorado group that has aggressively lobbied Colorado clerks, including Schroeder, to investigate lies about voter fraud. Shawn Smith, a leader of the group, accused Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold of criminal conduct.
“If you’re involved in voter fraud, then you deserve to be hanged,” Smith said in February.