Police investigate how Michigan voting machine ended up for sale online

The machine was purchased by a Connecticut cybersecurity expert who alerted authorities in Michigan and is now waiting for law enforcement to retrieve the device. CNN determined the machine was dropped off at a Goodwill store in northern Michigan, before being sold on eBay last month by an Ohio man.

In an interview with CNN, the Ohio man said he bought the machine online at Goodwill for $7.99 before auctioning it off on eBay for $1,200.

Michigan’s Democratic attorney general has asked a special prosecutor to investigate his Republican challenger, Matthew DePerno, after finding evidence that allegedly links him to a conspiracy to tamper with voting machines used in the 2020 election. DePerno denied the allegations.

A windfall at Goodwill

Ean Hutchison, a 35-year-old Uber driver in Miamisburg, Ohio, has an eye for technology and a stellar record as an eBay seller. He scours the web for deals on computer parts, such as motherboards and graphics cards, then resells them for a profit on eBay, often to like-minded people who build or upgrade. their own computers.

“I have a knack for finding really cheap hidden gems and making a quick buck,” Hutchison said, and often find these gems at online thrift stores and Goodwill.

It was during a recent trawl of a Goodwill website in Michigan that Hutchison said he discovered one of these gems.

“AVALUE TECHNOLOGY Touch Panel SID-15V-Z37-B1R,” was the entire ad read. Images accompanying the ad showed a large screen, possibly a touchscreen, with what looked like a slot for a key card or credit card. A handwritten sticker on the base of the monitor read “Colfax.” Goodwill was selling it for $7.99.

For the uninitiated, it would be difficult to know what this product was. A monitor that could maybe plug into a computer, maybe. But why the slot for a card?

Hutchison knew what he was looking at.

It was a piece of election material that he reasoned given where it was listed had been used in the Michigan election.

“I didn’t even know they were meant to be sold, let alone donated to Goodwill,” Hutchison told CNN.

“Own a piece of history!”

The machine – a ballot-marking device – arrived in the mail and Hutchison later posted it on eBay. It set the eBay bid starting at $250, but gave potential buyers the option to skip the auction if they paid $1,200 upfront.

“Own a piece of history!” Hutchison’s eBay listing has been read. “This voting machine was one of thousands used in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and included in one of many lawsuits against Dominion that were dismissed.”

Dominion Voting Systems was the subject of baseless allegations after the 2020 election that its voting machines were hacked as part of a conspiracy to stage the election in favor of President Joe Biden. Dominion is currently engaged in a billion-dollar libel lawsuit against a handful of defendants, including Fox News, which amplified baseless claims that its machines were hacked in the 2020 election.

700 miles away, in his Connecticut apartment, Harri Hursti saw the ad.

Hursti is considered one of the foremost experts in voting machine security and hosts an event each August in Las Vegas where hackers gain access to voting machines in an effort to identify and fix potential vulnerabilities. As a result, Hursti has essentially become a collector of voting machines – but the machines he can normally buy are old and retired.

The ad was unusual, Hursti said, because it claimed to sell a device that he said could still be used in Michigan.

Hursti bought the machine for $1,200. After delivering it to his home last week, he contacted the office of Michigan’s secretary of state, which oversees elections in the state. He says he was instructed not to open the box the machine came in, to save it for law enforcement who might need to wipe it down for fingerprints.

A few days later, an official from the Secretary of State’s office emailed Hursti. “Thank you again for bringing this to our attention,” the email read. “We have determined that this device originated from one of our jurisdictions. The jurisdiction has now reported the device to law enforcement as stolen.”

It is unclear how the voting machine ultimately ended up in Goodwill. It was delivered to Goodwill Northern Michigan’s e-commerce division from a Goodwill location in Cadillac, Michigan, a Goodwill spokesperson told CNN. Goodwill said in a statement that his team members process thousands of donations a week in northern Michigan and are cooperating with authorities in the investigation of the device.

Michigan State Police seize voting machine as they expand investigation into potential 2020 election violations

The Wexford County Clerk, which covers Cadillac and includes a town called Colfax, like the label on the machine in question, told CNN Thursday she was looking for answers.

“I’m just as worried, if not more so,” Clerk Alaina Nyman said when asked about security concerns expressed by state officials.

Colfax Township Clerk Becky Stoddard declined to comment specifically on the device, citing an ongoing police investigation, although she said she was keeping the election materials locked up and added that she did not believe conspiracy theories about Dominion voting machines.

“I’ve never had a problem with anything,” said Stoddard, who said he was committed for 22 years.

Security and conspiracy theories

In some states, voting machines may only be used a few days a year, or every other year. But their secure storage is crucial to ensuring the integrity of US elections. This can be a challenge given the decentralized nature of voting systems in this country.

In Michigan, for example, there are more than 1,500 different voting jurisdictions in 83 counties, each with its own clerk responsible for the security of its voting machines, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state, told CNN in an interview in Detroit on Thursday that voters should be assured the state’s election is secure.

Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State

She said her team contacted law enforcement as soon as they heard about the machine on eBay, and she also pointed out that there were multiple checks of the machines before and after Election Day to ensure precise results.

It’s a point that was echoed by Hursti, who tries to find vulnerabilities in electoral systems for a living.

He told CNN that while the appearance of a Michigan voting machine on eBay raises concerns about how the machines are stored, the real threat is what election conspiracy theorists might do.

Over the past two years, people trying to prove the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen have sought or gained unauthorized access to election systems.

Michigan State Police investigated a series of voting machine violations that occurred in several counties across the state last year.

“What you really have are individuals who don’t seem to understand the technical aspects of the election process or election security trying to access machines to keep disinformation alive,” Benson said.

As for the machine that showed up at Goodwill, how it got there is a mystery that police are trying to solve – Thursday night Hursti still had this critical infrastructure at his house, waiting for someone to retrieve it .

CNN’s Sean Lyngaas contributed to this report.

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. Police investigate Michigan voting machine ended sale online

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