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Michigan lawmaker entangled in voting tabulator probe

Lansing — Michigan state Rep. Daire Rendon, a Republican who has previously claimed to have evidence of election fraud from information technology "experts," has quietly become entangled in a probe into unauthorized access to voting tabulators.

The Michigan State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel's office have been investigating voting machine access in multiple counties in the battleground state for months. Their work started in Roscommon County, a northern Michigan area represented by Rendon, a Republican from Lake City.

Carol Asher, the longtime clerk in Denton Township, told The Detroit News on Friday that Rendon had contacted her in the weeks after the November 2020 election with a request that baffled her.

“She wanted to get access to our tabulator, and I said no," recalled Asher, who added that she believed Rendon had contacted other clerks as well.

"She called me on my cellphone on a Saturday," Asher added.

The Attorney General's Office had been in contact with Asher, the clerk said, and she provided a statement about Rendon's request on March 10, 2022, according to a document reviewed by The News. The subject line of the statement was "statement regarding phone call received about tabulator access."

A second elections official, Missaukee County Clerk Jessica Nielsen, said she had also been contacted by Rendon after the November 2020 election "with an inquiry about voting equipment."

"I said I could not allow access, and I did not receive any further request from her or anyone else," Nielsen said in an email.

In a Thursday interview, Rendon, a third-term lawmaker, declined to answer whether she had been interviewed by the Michigan State Police as part of the tabulator probe.

"I’m aware that something’s going on, but I don’t know what it is," said Rendon, referring to public reports on the Roscommon County incident.

When asked whether she had any knowledge about the situation outside of public press releases, Rendon told The News, "I do not."

Authorities wouldn't say Thursday whether Rendon was somehow involved in the probe.

Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office, declined to comment on Rendon. Asked if there was an ongoing investigation into Rendon, Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Derrick Carroll said he would not verify any details about the probe.

"We are not releasing any information regarding the active investigation, so we do not compromise the case," Carroll said. "We are not disclosing names of any witnesses or persons of interest."

In February, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked the Attorney General's Office and the Michigan State Police to examine reports that an "unnamed third party" was granted access to voting technology in Roscommon County. She also sent a letter to clerks across the state, saying Michigan law was "clear that unauthorized third parties may not have access to election technology and data."

"Our office has recently received multiple credible allegations of instances in which an unauthorized third party has been granted access to vote tabulation machines in violation of Michigan law," Benson's letter began.

At least one third party allegedly gained inappropriate access to tabulator machines and data drives used in Richfield Township and Roscommon County, according to the Secretary of State's office. Such access could require the equipment to be replaced at taxpayer expense, the office said.

Asked if Rendon had ever asked for access to voting machines for herself or someone else in Roscommon County, the county's clerk, Michelle Stevenson, replied in an email Thursday, "I cannot answer at this time."

Stevenson didn't respond to a follow-up question.

Rendon has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers in the state advancing unproven claims of fraud in the November 2020 presidential election, which Republican Donald Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

"I am in receipt of evidence reflecting systematic election fraud in Michigan that occurred in the November 2020 election," Rendon said in a statement on June 26, 2021.

Her unproven claim of having evidence came three days after the Senate Oversight Committee released a high-profile report that upheld the results of the 2020 election.

Rendon contended the Senate report was "was formed without a proper investigation." She encouraged "attorneys in Michigan and beyond to pursue legal avenues that will reveal truth and transparency to the citizens of the United States."

About three months later, she gave a speech outside the Michigan Capitol, questioning why others didn't want to see "evidence" of election fraud in the 2020 vote.

In an interview at the time, Rendon said her evidence was "from two IT (information technology) experts." Rendon said her evidence showed that voting machines were "accessible" and could have been hacked.

"They had IP addresses on them for countries outside of the U.S.," Rendon said on Oct. 12, 2021.

Asked if that proved there was hacking, Rendon said the machines' "logs" would need to be examined.

"I haven't seen the logs or I'm not capable of reading them," Rendon said then. "I'm not an IT expert. But I have seen a lot of the evidence that was done by these IT people."

Rendon gained headlines for wearing a button to the October 2021 event that featured an American flag with a gold "Q" on it, a letter that has become a symbol for a right-wing conspiracy theory movement known as QAnon.

In December 2020, Rendon was one of two GOP members of the Michigan House listed among the plaintiffs in an unsuccessful federal lawsuit that aimed to require state legislatures to certify the results of presidential elections.