Michigan’s attorney general has called for a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of a Republican-led effort to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment in the aftermath of the 2020 national election.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, called for the investigation on Friday after Michigan state police examined whether Matt DePerno, a presumptive Republican candidate for the office, may have orchestrated the alleged effort.
It came after reports that Donald Trump supporters persuaded clerks to give them access to the voting machines in an effort to prove that fraud cost the former president a second term. Such claims of a fraudulent election have been repeatedly shown to be false.
Nessel’s office said on Friday that an investigation had led them to DePerno who, it claimed, had “orchestrated a coordinated plan to gain access to voting tabulators”. Calls for a special prosecutor were first published by Politico, citing a petition from Nessel.
The attorney general’s office claims that investigators found that voting tabulators had been removed, broken into and tested at hotels and short-term rentals.
“When this investigation began, there was not a conflict of interest,” Nessel’s petition said. “However, during the course of the investigation, facts were developed that DePerno was one of the prime instigators of the conspiracy.”
Reuters reported on Sunday that DePerno had led a team to examine a vote tabulator from Richfield Township, a conservative stronghold of 3,600 people in northern Michigan’s Roscommon county, in one of four possible breaches of Michigan law prohibiting unauthorized access to voting equipment under investigation.
According to Nessel’s petition, five tabulators were taken from Roscommon and Missaukee counties in northern Michigan, and Barry county in western Michigan.
The request for a prosecutor also names Ben Cotton, Jeff Lenberg, Cyber Ninjas founder Douglas Logan and James Penrose. Each have been involved in efforts to question the 2020 election and were allegedly involved in the Michigan “tests”.
Under Michigan law, obtaining undue possession of a voting machine used in an election is a felony punishable by five years in prison.
DePerno is the Trump-endorsed candidate for the state’s republican attorney general nomination and supports the former president’s false claims about his 2020 loss in the state, which was instrumental in his defeat to Joe Biden. He has been endorsed for Michigan attorney general by state Republicans and is likely to be officially nominated later this month.
At the CPAC conference in Dallas earlier this month, Trump said DePerno is “going to make sure that you are going to have law and order and fair elections”.
If Nessel’s petition for a special prosecutor is successful, the prosecutor would then be called to determine if the state should bring criminal charges against DePerno and eight other associates alleged to have taken part in the effort.
DePerno’s campaign, Tyson Shepard, accused Nessel in the Detroit News of having a “history targeting and persecuting her political enemies”.
Shepard added: “Dana Nessel knows she is losing this race. She is desperate to win this election at all costs and is now targeting DePerno, her political opponent.”
He called Nessel’s actions “unethical” and said they would “demonstrate to the voters that she is unfit for office.”