On several occasions after the 2020 presidential election, Trump allies breached equipment used at polling locations around the country in search of evidence to support voting fraud conspiracy theories. The breaches have included unauthorized people stealing voting system passwords and posting them online, taking and distributing confidential voting software, and inspecting ballot-counting machines.
These unauthorized intrusions into polling places and voting procedures occurred for nearly two years after the 2020 election. By September 2022, ongoing investigations were still taking place in at least three states: Colorado, Georgia, and Michigan.
Major incidents have included:
- In Coffee County, Georgia, election systems were breached on Jan. 7, 2021 by Scott Hall and Paul Maggio, two computer security experts with the Atlanta IT firm SullivanStrickler who were working with Sidney Powell, a Trump legal advisor. (SullivanStrickler also worked for Powell’s team to access election equipment in Nevada and Michigan. The firm proposed doing similar work in Spalding County, Georgia, but was never hired.) Hall and Maggio accessed the building with the help of Cathy Latham, a former GOP chairwoman of Coffee County who is also under criminal investigation for her role in posing as a fake elector in 2020.
On the morning of Jan. 7, Maggio, who is the COO of SullivanStrickler, sent an email to Powell stating “on our way to Coffee County Georgia to collect what we can from the Election/Voting machines and systems.” He also sent Powell an invoice for an “initial retainer” of $26,000 with the subject “Voting Machines Analysis.” This was followed up by an email on Jan. 8 in which Maggio said: “Everything went smoothly yesterday with the Coffee County collection. Everyone involved was extremely helpful. We are consolidating all of the data collected and will be uploading it to our secure site for access by your team.”
According to the Coalition for Good Governance, which filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Secretary of State over lapses in election security, the intruders copied “the server, ballot marking devices and printers, scanners, poll pads, and removable media devices” at the election office and then uploaded this information on open file sharing websites. Later in January 2021, surveillance video footage at the Coffee County elections office shows that Doug Logan and Jeffrey Lenberg of Cyber Ninjas, the IT firm conducting the forensic audit in Arizona, were granted access to election systems and machines for unknown reasons. The fact that access had been granted to Cyber Ninjas was not shared with the State Elections Board.
- In Elbert County, Colorado, Clerk Dallas Schroeder, a Republican, was caught on camera copying computer drives that contained sensitive voter information. As of August 2022, Schroeder was under investigation for violation of state election laws. Schroeder said he was receiving instructions from Trump-affiliated political activists. He provided testimony in which he claims to have made a “forensic image of everything on the election server” and then gave the cloned hard drives to two lawyers. Although he refused to name one of the lawyers, the other lawyer working with Schroeder is affiliated with MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.
- In Fulton County, Pennsylvania, State Senator and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano helped orchestrate an unauthorized inspection of voting systems and machinery. On Dec. 31, 2020, Wake Technology Services Inc., a Pennsylvania company with no experience in election audits, was granted access to mail-in ballots and voting machines. Fulton County Elections Director Patti Hess said she was complying with orders from Mastriano and claimed that if she did not allow Wake Technology access, the county would face a subpoena.
For its part, Wake Technology is a contracted company with Defending the Republic, a 501(c)(4) founded by Sidney Powell. In July 2022, Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid decertified Fulton County’s election systems as a result of the breach. She found that the supposed “inspection” of the voting systems “was not transparent or bipartisan” and that Wake Technology had “no knowledge or expertise in election technology.” As a result, Fulton County will likely be required to acquire new voting machines to preserve security and ballot secrecy.
- In Lake County, Ohio, a private laptop was connected to the election system infrastructure located in the office of Republican John Hamercheck, chairman of the Lake County Board of Commissioners. According to Secretary of State Frank LaRose, some inter-network communication with wireless printers was downloaded but it did not contain any sensitive data or voter information. Nevertheless, the data was displayed at a meeting on voter fraud organized by Lindell, attempting to show that there had been systemic problems in the Ohio election system. Shortly before the unauthorized network connection, Hamercheck had met with election conspiracy theorist Douglas Frank who claims to have discovered “algorithms” used to rig the 2020 election. Ohio law enforcement and the FBI are collaborating on an investigation into the breach as of September 2022.
- In Roscommon County, Michigan, “an unnamed third party was allowed to access vote tabulator components,” according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in a February 2022 statement. The alleged breach led to an investigation by state police.
- In August 2022, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel launched an investigation into whether Matt DePerno, then the Republican candidate for attorney general, had orchestrated the breach. Trump had endorsed his bid for attorney general, proclaiming that DePerno would “make sure that you are going to have law and order and fair elections”—yet in the end, both men lost their respective elections.