Election worker tampered with computer after polls closed in Michigan, authorities say

Charles Krupa/AP

An election worker is facing two felony charges after “suspicious activity” during recent primary voting, according to local officials in Michigan.

During the August primary election, an individual saw a worker insert a USB drive into an Electronic Poll Book, a computer containing voter registration data, Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons said in a statement on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The incident took place in Gaines Township Precinct 8 after the polls closed, Lyons said.

Electronic Poll Books are not connected to the equipment that counts votes or the internet, Lyons said. They contain “confidential, personal identifying information about all voters in that precinct,” she said.

The incident did not influence the election, according to Lyons.

Lyons said she learned of the “suspicious activity” on Aug. 18 and notified the sheriff’s office, which launched a now-complete investigation.

The Kent County prosecutor announced charges on Sept. 28 in a news release. The prosecutor’s office filed the following charges against James Donald Holkeboer, per the release:

  • Falsifying returns/records under election law

  • Using a computer to commit a crime

Holkeboer will be arraigned in the 63rd District Court, but no timeline has been announced, the release said.

Holkeboer was not employed by Kent County or Gaines Township, Lyons said. He was an election worker, who are “everyday citizens trained and certified by clerks to work the precincts and absentee counting boards on Election Day,” she said.

“This incident is extremely egregious and incredibly alarming,” Lyons said. “Not only is it a violation of Michigan law, but it is a violation of public trust and of the oath all election workers are required to take.”

The computer breach took place after its files had been saved to the precinct’s encrypted system and did not provide access to ballots, voting machines or results, she said.

“My office intends to conduct a post-election audit of the precinct, complete with a tally of the paper ballots to reaffirm the results and reassure the voters,” Lyons said. “As an added measure, the Electronic Poll Book that was breached will no longer be used in future elections and will be replaced by a new one prior to the November election.”

“Voter fraud and illegal election activity in Kent County will not be tolerated,” Lyons continued.

Kent County is in western Michigan and contains the city of Grand Rapids. Gaines Township is about 10 miles south of Grand Rapids and about 145 miles northwest of Detroit.