The FBI is investigating an attempted breach of a local election network in the state of Ohio that occurred last spring.
A private laptop was plugged into the election network in the office of John Hamercheck, the chairman of the Lake county board of commissioners, on 4 May – the day of Ohio’s spring primary election – according to the Washington Post.
State and county officials say that no private information or sensitive data was taken in the breach.
The news comes at a time when Republicans across the country are claiming – almost always without evidence – that America’s electoral system is fraudulent. Many such figures are also seeking to win election to offices to roles that oversee voting.
Routine network traffic that was captured during the Ohio breach was circulated at an event organized by Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow. Over the last year, Lindell has actively promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was rigged against Donald Trump.
Lindell is a close ally and friend of Trump, even interviewing him recently in a video where the two men promoted the false idea that Biden’s election win was somehow part of a fraud.
At the Ohio event in August, copies of the software from voting equipment in Colorado and Michigan were distributed to attendees, alerting officials of the breaches.
The breach in Ohio is a part of a series of attacks on voting systems that have taken place across the country as vigilante hackers embrace the conspiracy theory despite there being no evidence of election fraud during the 2020 election.
A similar breach took place in Mesa county, Colorado, in late May. Local election officials have since been accused of allowing outsiders into the county election offices to copy the hard drives of election equipment. Earlier this week, the FBI raided the home of Tina Peters, the county clerk, after she was accused of facilitating the breach
Officials in the Ohio secretary of state’s office say they believe a government employee likely assisted with the breach.
“It’s concerning that somebody would – especially somebody in a government office, somebody who is an elected official, or somebody who’s part of county government – would … try to engage in some sort of vigilante investigation,” Frank LaRose, Ohio secretary of state, told the Washington Post.
According to the Post, county officials in both Ohio and Colorado discussed election fraud claims with Douglass Frank, a close associate of Lindell who has propagated claims of election fraud, before the breaches occurred.
Frank has told the Post that he has been traveling around the country and has met with about 100 election administrators in attempts to convince them election fraud took place.
Hamercheck, whose office was the site of the breach in Ohio, told the Post that he is “aware of no criminal activity”.
“I have absolute confidence in our board of elections and our IT people,” he said.
Public records obtained by the Post show that Hamercheck used his security badge to access the fifth floor offices, where the breaches occurred, multiple times during the six-hour period when the private laptop was connecting to the election network.