Michigan Poll Worker Charged With Breach; Officials Say Primary Was Sound

A Michigan poll worker in the Aug. 2 primary was accused of tampering with an election computer at a polling place, a violation that elections officials said highlighted insider threats to system integrity that have proliferated since the election. of 2020.

While state and local officials stressed the breach did not influence the outcome of the primary election, they said the equipment involved would no longer be used.

The episode occurred after polls closed in Gaines Township, south of Grand Rapids, where a person saw a Republican-affiliated poll worker insert a personal USB drive into a special computer known as an electronic poll book, he said Wednesday. Kent County Clerk’s Office. .

Chris Becker, the county attorney, identified the poll worker as James Donald Holkeboer.

The computer stores voter registration data, including sensitive personally identifiable information about all voters in the precinct, but is not connected to any tabulation equipment or the Internet, according to Lisa Posthumus Lyons, the county clerk.

The case expanded a pattern of allegations that insiders meddled with election equipment in Michigan, a battleground state where former President Donald J. Trump falsely claimed there was widespread voter fraud in 2020. Last month, Dana Nessel, Michigan’s attorney general and a Democrat, has called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to continue an investigation into previous violations and bring possible criminal charges.

In Kent County, officials did not discuss what had prompted the tampering.

“This incident is extremely egregious and incredibly alarming,” Ms Lyons said in a statement on Wednesday. “Not only is this a violation of Michigan law, but it is a violation of the public trust and of the oath that all poll workers are required to take.”

Ms. Lyons, a Republican, said the clerk’s office would conduct a post-election audit of the precinct, complete with a recount of paper ballots to reaffirm the results and reassure voters. The results were certified on Aug. 12 and accepted by the state board of elections on Aug. 19, according to Robert J. Macomber, chief deputy clerk for Kent County.

Holkeboer, 68, was charged with falsifying statements or records and using a computer to commit a crime, Becker, the prosecutor, said in a statement Wednesday. Both charges are felonies and carry a combined maximum sentence of nine years in prison.

Holkeboer could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday, and it was not clear if he had an attorney. He was issued a citation and remained free as of Thursday morning, according to Lori Latham, a county spokeswoman.

An arraignment date was also not available on Thursday morning for Mr. Holkeboer, who appeared to be a poll worker for the first time during the primary, Mr. Macomber said.

Poll workers are responsible for registering voters, looking them up in the electronic poll book, casting ballots and helping with crowd flow, Macomber said in an email Thursday. About six poll workers are assigned to each precinct for primary and general elections, and their political affiliations are often divided, said Macomber, who identified Holkeboer as a Republican.

Angela Benander, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of State, which oversees elections, said in an email Thursday that the agency had been made aware of the violation by the county.

“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 Ms. Benander. “The equipment breached in this case has been decommissioned and will not be in use for the November general election. Michigan voters can rest assured that their votes will be counted accurately and securely.”