Advance Notice: Briefs

Questions remain on voting machines found tampered after northern Michigan twp. break-in 

By: - January 31, 2022 2:53 pm

Michigan ballot | Susan J. Demas

Details surrounding a northern Michigan break-in related to voting machines after the 2020 election were publicly revealed for the first time on Friday, despite the alleged incident happening more than a year ago.

According to reporting from the Petoskey News-Review, the clerk for Cross Village Township arrived at the township’s community center on Jan. 14, 2021, to find what appeared to be a break-in and attempt to tamper with the election equipment.

The Emmet County Sheriff’s Office arrested in October a suspect, Tera Jackson, 56, of Petoskey. A warrant had been out for her arrest since March.

Neither Cross Village Township Clerk Diane Keller, nor her brother, Stephen Keller — the township supervisor — had been aware that a suspect had been arrested, the News-Review reported.

Keller said in a March interview with the paper that when she and township trustee Howard Wood arrived at the community center that day to find the door to the election equipment room opened and the screws on a voting tabulator stripped.

Months later, Jackson was arrested and charged with common law fraud and aiding and abetting the unauthorized access of a computer.

The suspect’s affidavit revealed that Jackson had broken in and tampered with the equipment because she believed there had been widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election — a conspiracy theory pushed by former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Jackson also wrongly believed that she had been tasked with retrieving the information on the township’s voting tabulator.

Many questions remain about the incident, including why law enforcement did not allow details about the case to be publicly shared until a full year later.

Cross Village Township also faces having to replace the $3,000 machine.

“The News-Review began following this story immediately after it occurred last January, but was unable to get any significant confirmation on the facts of the case from the sheriff’s department,” the News-Review’s Friday story reads.

“An independent third-party source informed the News-Review last week that an arrest had been made. The affidavit was obtained via a public records request Wednesday.”

The publication had also reportedly filed a public records request from the sheriff’s department in January 2021, which was denied due to the ongoing investigation.

The court documents obtained last week also mention that on Jan. 14, 2021, Keller met up with Wood at the center to see him with two other men wearing bulletproof vests. One was reportedly carrying a gun. Wood said they were there to perform a so-called “forensic audit” and asked to be let into the storage room before finding it ajar and the equipment inside altered.

There was no audit planned, according to Stephen Keller, and any such audit would not have been coordinated through Wood.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).