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Election worker faces felony charges in Kent County for allegedly accessing poll book

The Kent County prosecutor has charged an election worker with two felonies for allegedly tampering with a computer used in the August primary.

James Donald Holkeboer, who registered with the county as a Republican, was a first-time election worker, according to clerk's office records. Election workers are everyday citizens trained and certified by clerks to work the precincts and absentee counting boards on Election Day, the Kent County clerk said.

Holkeboer is accused of inserting a personal USB drive into a precinct computer after polls closed on primary election day.

The computer contains the Electronic Poll Book, which Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons said contains personal, confidential identifying information about all voters in a precinct — in this case, precinct 8 in Gaines Township.

"This incident is extremely egregious and incredibly alarming," Posthumus Lyons said in a statement. "Not only is it a violation of Michigan law, but it is a violation of public trust and of the oath all election workers are required to take."

But Posthumous Lyons said the Electronic Poll Book is not connected to tabulators nor to the internet, and it is not possible for it to be used to tamper with the actual votes. Still, her office will conduct a full post-election audit of the precinct with a paper ballot tally to reaffirm the count and reassure voters.

A statement from the Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said Holkeboer has been charged with violating election law by falsifying returns or records, which is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and using a computer to commit a crime, a felony punishable by up to 4 years.

The charges against Holkeboer are not the only recent alleged effort in Michigan to interfere with the running of elections. The day before the primary, Wayne County GOP leaders encouraged election workers to secretly break a state rule banning cell phones in polling places and vote-counting centers.

And Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has appointed Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson to serve as a special prosecutor to consider possible charges in an alleged vote tabulator tampering case linked to the Republican candidate for attorney general, Matthew DePerno.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.