Richard Patton mug shot

Richard Patton. 

Police arrested a Pueblo man on Thursday for allegedly trying to tamper with a voting machine during Colorado’s primary election in June.

Richard Patton, 31, was booked into the Pueblo County Judicial Center on charges of tampering with a voting machine and cybercrimes, according to the Pueblo Police Department. Patton was arrested without incident at around 9 a.m. Thursday on the 1000 block of Ruppel Avenue in Pueblo.

The alleged voter tampering took place at the voter service and polling center in the Pueblo Clerk’s Office late on Election Day on June 28, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Election workers heard noises coming from a voting booth and discovered an error message on the screen of the ICX voting machine stating, “USB device change detected. Please call a poll worker for assistance,” a spokesperson with the office said. The machine was then turned over to the Pueblo Police Department for an investigation.

“We would like to assure the community that all voter safeguards put in place to protect the voter process were successful,” the Pueblo Police Department said in a release. “No information has been found to be breached at this time.”

In Colorado, ICX voting machines have security measures to prevent tampering, including only allowing authorized removable storage media, such as USB drives, to work in the machine. If an unauthorized USB drive is plugged into the machine, an error message appears and the machine becomes nonoperational, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

In addition to apparently plugging a USB device into the voting machine, the suspect also allegedly disturbed the tamper-proof seal on the machine, a spokesperson with the office said.

The Pueblo Police Department declined to release any additional information about how they identified Patton as the suspect of their investigation, or what his motivation was for allegedly tampering with the voting machine.

Patton has been a registered Democrat since April 2019 and he voted in both the 2021 and 2020 elections, according to public records.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold described the alleged machine tampering as an attempt to undermine the election, inspired by disproven claims of election fraud from those who insist former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election instead of President Joe Biden.

“The continued spread of election conspiracies and the Big Lie is fueling threats to American elections, including efforts to interfere with election equipment,” Griswold said in a statement to Colorado Politics. “That is why I led a first-in-the-nation law on insider election threats, which increased physical safeguards around voting equipment and made it a felony to tamper with voting equipment.”

Patton faces a class 5 felony charge of tampering with a voting machine on top of the cybercrimes misdemeanor, thanks to the Colorado Election Security Act passed by the Colorado Legislature earlier this year.

The Election Security Act increased various election security measures, including making it a felony to tamper with voting equipment or facilitate unauthorized access to voting equipment. This is the first arrest and potential prosecution based on the Election Security Act, which was championed by Griswold and went into effect in early June — shortly before the alleged tampering occurred.

In Colorado, class 5 felonies are punishable by between one and three years in state prison, and/or a fine of up to $100,000, according to the Colorado Legal Defense Group.

“It is vital that anyone who breaks the law in attempts of subverting the will of the people or undermining elections be held responsible," Griswold said.

The investigation into the alleged voter tampering is ongoing. The Pueblo Police Department said it is working with its High-Tech Crime Unit, in addition to the Secretary of State’s Office, the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

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