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AG office responds to elections bureau subpoena as 1,100 documents are released

November 17, 2020
<p>Voting ballot illustration by Hope Ann Flores.</p>

Voting ballot illustration by Hope Ann Flores.

Photo by Hope Ann Flores | The State News

Following a Senate and House oversight committee vote Nov. 7 to subpoena documents related to the 2020 election, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office issued a response on behalf of the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Monday after 1,100 pages of documents were provided. 

The subpoena, asking broadly for “all documents and communications” related to the bureau’s efforts to inform residents of their right to vote by mail, demanded the documents be provided in only six business days, according to the release. 

The letter issued on behalf of the bureau said the short timeframe given for a reply is “unduly burdensome, especially considering the important duties the Bureau is currently performing to ensure that Michigan’s election results are timely and properly certified under state law.” 

Among documents requested are the approximately 4.4 million postcards sent to Michigan voters encouraging their participation in the November election and the 700,000 letters sent to eligible voters who had a Michigan driver’s license or state ID but were not yet registered to vote in the state.

Despite this and other legal objections to the subpoena, the bureau provided the nearly 1,100 pages of documents to the committees today and will continue to do so until complete, the release said. 

While the presidential election drew in a record-breaking 5.5 million Michigan voters, the bureau said they will continue to support bipartisan boards of canvassers as they review the processes and results of election. 

“The nearly 1,100 pages of documents provided today illustrate our commitment to transparency and cooperation, despite the questionable legality of the legislative committees’ subpoena and the naked partisan agenda behind their action,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in the release. “The documents underscore what millions of Michiganders and thousands of clerks and election workers already know and experienced first-hand: that our elections are secure and the results are an accurate reflection of the will of the people."

Benson said that she hopes that Michigan legislators will join the Secretary of State office in assuring voters to trust the election process, even if they aren't happy with the results.

According to the release, under law, a legislative subpoena is only valid if it serves a legislative purpose — something the committees failed to describe in the issue of their subpoena.

While a letter sent to Director of Elections Jonathan Brater claims their inquiry is in response to “numerous allegations regarding the integrity of the Nov. 3 election,” the letter said attempting to challenge or invalidate the results of an election cannot be considered a proper legislative purpose of any committee of the House or the Senate. 

The legislature plays no role in the administration of an election or the recount and challenge procedures that may apply, the letter sent by Nessel’s office said. 

“The Bureau is aware that leadership in the legislature and this committee has stated that the purpose of this inquiry is not to change the results of the November election or overturn the will of the voters," the letter said. "Nevertheless, the Bureau is also aware that the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee has indicated that a purpose of the current investigation is to assure that “legal votes were counted only.”"

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