HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — The investigation into claims of voter fraud in Barry County all seemed to start with a call just before the November 2020 election from the Irving Township clerk to the county clerk’s office, according to Barry County Clerk Pam Palmer.
“She reported that there was a vehicle across the street and it had all kinds of antennas and wires sticking out of it,” Palmer said. “She (Irving Township Clerk Sharon Olson) was convinced that they were probably scrambling or doing something to her (voting) machine remotely.”
The county clerk figured it was an internet provider doing some work.
Eventually, she said, the Irving Township clerk allowed a Barry County sheriff’s investigator and a third party to take one of the township’s three Dominion tabulators. That was in 2021.
“I’ve been told they took it (to the Detroit area) and tore it apart,” Palmer said.
She said the machine was later returned with a broken security seal.
Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt told Target 8 that the state police seized that machine in April for an investigation for the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office.
Target 8 confirmed last month that a state police investigation that started in Roscommon County early this year had reached Irving Township. In Roscommon County, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and state police to investigate reports her office had received that an unnamed third party was given access to vote tabulator components and technology.
Unauthorized access to machines is a breach of election security protocols and may have exposed the machines to vulnerabilities that make them unusable in future elections, Benson said.
The county clerk said the investigation by Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf focused on Dominion voting tabulators used throughout the county. The tabulators, slightly bigger than a laptop computer, were a central part of debunked conspiracy theories that Democrats had stolen the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump.
“I believe they are using Barry County as a template to see if these voting machines have the ability to switch votes,” the county clerk said.
She said she got a call in June 2021 from a panicked Carlton Township clerk.
“She had a voice message that a (sheriff’s) deputy and an investigator were coming to talk to her about the November 2020 election,” Palmer said.
The county clerk said she got there in time to confront the investigators — one from the Barry County Sheriff’s Department and another from the Detroit area.
“I said, ‘What’s to talk about? She balanced.’ There were no issues,” Palmer said.
In fact, she said, the entire county’s voting totals balanced in the November 2020 election.
The investigators told her they had already talked to half a dozen township clerks in Barry County.
“I said, ‘Why didn’t I know about this?’ and they said, ‘We are working under the element of surprise,'” Palmer recalled.
The sheriff has also filed repeated Freedom of Information Act requests to the county clerk and to township clerks for access to voting records and equipment.
“We did nothing wrong,” the county clerk said. “It’s put a cloud over our entire county with people wondering if their votes are going to really count, if their votes are going to make a difference.
“They ask me and my township clerks, what are you going to do different to correct what happened in 2020? And the answer is, we’re not going to do anything different. We ran a perfect election.”
In a telephone interview, the Barry County prosecutor on Tuesday said the sheriff turned over three binders of documents last year to her office from his investigation into alleged voter fraud. She said she reviewed the reports and found no evidence of fraud.
“We just didn’t see anything,” she said.
Then, she said, the sheriff picked it up again this spring.
About two weeks ago, the prosecutor said, the sheriff turned over what he called the first half of the documents from this year’s renewed investigation. She said she’s expecting the rest of the documents later this week.
“I can say this, I’m holding back talking about that part until I see the second part,” the prosecutor said.
The sheriff has filed a lawsuit against state officials claiming they illegally blocked his investigation into alleged voter fraud.
Leaf has refused to comment. Target 8 could not reach the Irving Township clerk for comment.