MSP investigate missing voting equipment after QAnon-posting clerk stripped of duties

click to enlarge A voting machine. - Shutterstock
A voting machine.

The Michigan State Police last week opened a criminal investigation to find out if a part of a voting machine that had previously gone missing was tampered with in a South-Central Michigan municipality. 

The Michigan Bureau of Elections on Oct. 25 stripped Stephanie Scott, the GOP Adams Township clerk, of her election administration authority, stating that Scott did not fulfill her responsibilities and spread misinformation regarding the Hillsdale County tabulators. 

Scott, who has posted QAnon memes on social media, had previously denied a vendor the ability to conduct routine maintenance on a voting machine. 

The state has asked Marney Kast, the Hillsdale County clerk who also is Republican, to run local elections Tuesday. The tablet was declared missing when Kast opened the tabulator suitcase last week before a public accuracy test was set to take place. Kast’s office ordered Scott to hand over the tablet by 8 a.m. Wednesday. Scott replied she was in contact with her attorney.

Police recovered the tablet on Friday. A vote tabulator does not store any data, but data is stored in a USB drive during an election and preserved by being downloaded onto a county server. Paper ballots also are all held onto by local clerks. 

Scott had told Bridge Michigan that she was afraid of maintenance wiping old data. The claims were a part of a broader array of baseless right-wing claims that voting machines were manipulated to make former President Donald Trump lose the election. 

Hillsdale County is a GOP stronghold where Trump trounced President Joe Biden 73% to 26%.

“The county clerk’s office and now Secretary of State are demanding I drop off my machine for unfettered access, and God only knows doing what to it,” Scott said. “When you have the fox guarding the hen house, somebody’s got to stand up and guard those hens.”

Tracy Wimmer, a spokesperson for Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, said in a press release that the SOS did not have a comment “on the specifics of any matter that is currently the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation” but said she will continue to battle disinformation and false claims about election fraud. 

“Protecting the security of Michigan’s election system is at the forefront of Secretary Benson’s responsibility as the state’s chief election officer – that’s one of the reasons our 2020 election was the most secure election in Michigan history,” Wimmer said. “She has and will continue to utilize every legal tool available to protect the integrity of our democracy, particularly at a time when disinformation and false conspiracies continue to escalate.”

Scott has previously posted QAnon memes on Facebook. In 2019, the FBI designated QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat.

Six days after the 2020 general election, Scott posted a link to comments made by former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp.) spreading election fraud conspiracies, adding,“This isn’t over. WWG1WGA.”

That’s a popular QAnon phrase meaning, “Where we go one, we go all.”

Scott also lambasted a National Public Radio fact check debunking Trump’s claim that Biden was incorrectly posing as the winner of the election before the election results were certified.

“WAKE UP AMERICA,” The post said. “Media does not declare election results. States aren’t certifying because they they [sic] will be held legally liable for the results they sign their names to. WWG1WGA.”

Scott also referenced “WWG1WGA” in a post in April amplifying a pro-Trump video that inserted old tweets from Trump falsely saying the election was rigged against him. 

Originally published November 1, 2021 on Michigan Advance. It is shared here with permission.

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