Chasing proof of vote-rigging conspiracy theories, Republican officials and activists in eight U.S. locales have plotted to gain illegal access to balloting systems, undermining the security of elections they claim to protect.
To stand up that bogus claim, some Trump die-hards are taking the law into their own hands – by attempting, with some success, to compromise the voting systems themselves.
Previously unreported surveillance video captured one such effort in August in the rural Colorado town of Kiowa. Footage obtained by Reuters through a public-records request shows Elbert County Clerk Dallas Schroeder, the county’s top election official, fiddling with cables and typing on his phone as he copied computer drives containing sensitive voting information.
Schroeder, a Republican, later testified that he was receiving instructions on how to copy the system’s data from a retired Air Force colonel and political activist bent on proving Trump lost because of fraud.
That day, Aug. 26, Schroeder made a “forensic image of everything on the election server,” according to his testimony, and later gave the cloned hard drives to two lawyers.
Schroeder is now under investigation for possible violation of election laws by the Colorado secretary of state, which has also sued him seeking the return of the data. Schroeder is defying that state demand and has refused to identify one of the lawyers who took possession of the hard drives. The other is a private attorney who works with an activist backed by Mike Lindell, the pillow mogul and election conspiracy theorist.
Schroeder said in a legal filing that he believed he had a “statutory duty” to preserve voting records. He declined to comment for this report.
The episode is among eight known attempts to gain unauthorized access to voting systems in five U.S. states since the 2020 election. All involved local Republican officeholders or party activists who have advanced Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods or conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, according to a Reuters examination of the incidents. Some of the breaches, including the one in Elbert County, were inspired in part by the false belief that state-ordered voting-system upgrades or maintenance would erase evidence of alleged fraud in the 2020 election. In fact, state election officials say, those processes have no impact on the voting systems’ ability to save data from past elections.