Man arrested on suspicion of tampering with voting machine

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado man who is a registered Democratic voter has been arrested on suspicion of tampering with voting equipment in an incident in which the man is accused of inserting a USB thumb drive into a voting machine at a polling station during the primary election in June, authorities said.

Richard Patton, 31, of Pueblo was arrested on Thursday by members of the Pueblo Police Department High-Tech Crime Unit for investigation of tampering with voting equipment, a felony, and cybercrime-unauthorized access, the department said in a statement.

No secure elections data was breached in the June 28 incident, Pueblo police said. But it heightened concerns among election officials and security experts that conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election could inspire some voters to meddle with — or even attempt to sabotage — election equipment.

Experts say even unsuccessful breaches could become major problems in the days leading up to and on Tuesday’s midterm election, causing delays at polling places or sowing the seeds of misinformation campaigns.

Court records indicate Patton was being held without bond at the Pueblo County Judicial Center pending an advisement hearing later Friday in which he will hear the pending charges against him. Patton was being represented by an attorney from the public defender's office, which does not comment on pending cases.

Gilbert Ortiz, Pueblo County's clerk and recorder, confirmed Friday that Patton has been a registered Democratic voter since 2019, when he switched his affiliation from the Green Party.

No secure elections data was breached in the June 28 incident, Pueblo police said. But the incident heightened concerns among election officials and security experts that conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election could inspire some voters to meddle with — or even attempt to sabotage — election equipment.

Experts say even unsuccessful breaches could become major problems in the days leading up to and on Tuesday’s midterm election, causing delays at polling places or sowing the seeds of misinformation campaigns.

Citing an ongoing investigation, Pueblo police spokesperson Officer Meagan Chapman said the department could not immediately release any further information, including a warrant for Patton's arrest that could potentially suggest a possible motive for the alleged tampering. It occurred at a central Pueblo polling station on June 28, the day of Colorado's party primaries.

Police said they worked with Colorado's Secretary of State's Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and local prosecutors in the investigation.

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James Anderson, The Associated Press