Fake Surveillance Camera Next To Ballot Drop Box Investigated As ‘Voter Intimidation’

Plymouth Township Police Department
Plymouth Township Police Department Plymouth Township Police Department

A fake surveillance camera that flashed when voters approached a drop box in Plymouth Township, Michigan, is being investigated as potential voter intimidation. 

The device, set up at a drop box location outside a local church ahead of the state’s primary elections last month, was set up to flash “as if it was taking a picture,” police chief James Knittel told The Detroit News.

“We’re looking at this as voter intimidation,” he added. 

“The concern is that somebody is trying to intimidate or coerce our voters, and that’s why we’re conducting the criminal investigation,” Knittel told HuffPost Wednesday. “Tips have come in, we’re following up on each tip.”

“That’s a clear attempt at voter intimidation,” township Supervisor Kurt Heise told Hometown Life, which first reported the story. “They installed these fake cameras to intimidate people who were coming to drop off the ballots… and undermine confidence in the system.”

Ironically, the township had its own cameras monitoring the drop box, which captured images of the person who set up the fake camera. 

“We reviewed our cameras and saw clearly an individual coming by, looking at the site, walking back to his car, bringing back the camera and installing it,” Township Clerk Jerry Vorva told Hometown Life. “Either him or someone who looks like him then comes back a few weeks later and installs some lights that look like a camera next to the dropbox.” 

Knittel told The Detroit News that footage showed the potential perpetrator installing the fake camera in January and a solar-powered lighting device in February. Vorva discovered the fake camera when he was checking on the box last month.

The township posted footage of the person on its Facebook page Tuesday, asking anyone with information about them to contact police.

Vorva, a Republican, told Hometown Life that he believed the incident may be related to right-wing conspiracy theorists who still reject the legitimate results of the 2020 election.

“We’ve had a lot of contact from people I’d call ‘election deniers,’ people on the extreme right of the party who still haven’t accepted the results of the 2020 election,” he said.

Vorva told HuffPost Wednesday that he’d been hearing complaints about the potential for voter fraud ever since Michiganders passed a constitutional amendment, Proposition 2, which requires in-person early voting centers and a drop box for every 15,000 registered voters in municipalities.

“I’m sure that somebody knows who this guy is,” Vorva said. “All across the state, the clerks have to deal with this seed of doubt planted in the general populous’s mind that the system’s not fair. And we just can’t operate that way ... it breaks the system. So we’re always on the lookout for informing the public that the system is safe, it’s fair, it’s accurate.”

The fake surveillance camera could be yet another instance of vigilantism over ballot drop boxes — activity which surged after Donald Trump’s attacks on the 2020 election results.

“2000 Mules,” a documentary featuring the right-wing group True The Vote, popularized the myth — one of many amplified by Trump — that left-wing operatives stole the election by stuffing drop boxes with fraudulent ballots. The group’s leaders recently acknowledged in a court filing that they possessed no evidence to back up their claims. A defamation lawsuit against the activists and filmmakers behind “2000 Mules” filed by a voter that filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza falsely said had submitted fraudulent ballots is ongoing.

Trump targeted Michigan in 2020 in particular during his attempt to overturn the election results. A group of fake “electors” for Trump, who submitted paperwork falsely claiming he’d won Michigan’s vote and that they would cast Electoral College votes on his behalf, currently face multiple felony charges. All defendants pleaded not guilty; charges against one defendant were dropped after he reached a deal to cooperate with the state attorney general’s office.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the fake elector defendants had pleaded guilty; they have pleaded not guilty.