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Michigan troopers search clerk’s office for missing election equipment

voting
Adams Township Clerk Stephanie Scott was stripped of her ability to run next week’s election after refusing to allow a vendor to perform maintenance on election equipment.

Nov. 4: Deep in Trump country, a Michigan town mistrusts all elections, except its own

LANSING — Michigan State Police executed a search warrant at Adams Township Hall on Friday and appeared to remove a piece of election equipment from a locked drawer in the office of Clerk Stephanie Scott. 

A state police spokesperson confirmed the search but declined to say whether officers secured the voting machine tablet that went missing this week after the state stripped Scott of her election administration authority.

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"This is an ongoing investigation," state police spokesperson Lora Dougovito told Bridge Michigan.

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The missing voting equipment has been at the heart of an unusual election dispute in this small and rural conservative community in southern Michigan that former President Donald Trump won with 76 percent of the vote in 2020. 

Scott, a first-year Republican clerk who has posted about election fraud and QAnon conspiracy theories on social media, had refused to allow a vendor to perform preventative maintenance on the township tabulator because she feared it could wipe data from prior contests. 

Hillsdale County Clerk Marney Kast, a fellow Republican, attempted to retrieve the voting equipment from Adams Township earlier this week. She told Bridge she was unable to locate the tablet, which she called the "brains" of the machine. 

Fox 47 was first to report Friday that state police removed voting equipment from Adams Township Hall.

Video of the search posted online by local activists who support Scott showed police waiting for the township treasurer and then using her key to open a drawer in Scott's office. They removed what appeared to be a computer tablet similar to the version used in Hart InterCivic voting machines. 

Township Supervisor Mark Nichols, who accompanied state police inside the building, did not immediately respond to a voicemail left at his office by Bridge Michigan. Scott did not reply to a voicemail either.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections on Monday stripped Scott of her authority to run the township’s election Tuesday on a school operating millage renewal. The state appointed Kast, the Hillsdale County clerk, to conduct the election in Scott’s place.

State and county officials said Scott's fears of losing voting data are unfounded because the tabulators do not store any information from prior elections, which in Michigan are conducted using paper ballots retained by local clerks. 

But Scott continued to question their explanations, echoing claims that tabulators may have been rigged against Trump last year. 

"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 told Bridge earlier this week. 

“When you have the fox guarding the hen house, somebody's got to stand up and guard those hens.”

County elections officials tasked with running next week's election went to Adams Township Hall on Monday in an attempt to secure the voting machine. They took the tabulator case, but when they opened it the following day, they discovered the tablet was missing. 

"I don't know where it is or if it's been tampered with," Kast, the Republican Hillsdale County Clerk, told Bridge on Thursday. 

Scott has accused the state of "tyranny" from barring her from conducting the election, which Adams Township voters elected her to do last year. 

But Scott has refused to fulfill her “legal responsibilities” and has spread false claims about the tabulators used in Hillsdale County, Michigan Elections Director Jonathan Brater told her in a series of recent warning letters.

"By communicating false or misleading information about elections in Michigan, you risk not only undermining confidence in democracy in your community, but also amplifying threats and intimidation of your fellow election officials across our state which, fueled by misinformation, continue unabated," he wrote.

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