Saturday, November 28, 2020

Without evidence, state Legislature votes to subpoena elections bureau

November 7, 2020
<p>The Lansing Capitol building is being monitored on Election Day to prevent possible protests from arising. Shot on Nov. 3, 2020.</p>

The Lansing Capitol building is being monitored on Election Day to prevent possible protests from arising. Shot on Nov. 3, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Just as former Vice President Joe Biden secured the 270 electoral votes to become the 46th president of the United States, in Michigan, a joint state Senate and House oversight committee voted along party lines to subpoena documents relating to the 2020 election, investigating irregularities without evidence.

Chair of the committee, Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) acknowledged that reports of irregularities were anecdotal, but insisted that a subpoena for documents would provide clarity because the public is at a "fever pitch" of interest.

“The premise of these hearings is not to overturn the will of the people of this state, not to overturn right and fair and honest elections,” he said.

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said the hearing was extraordinary.

“We had a safe, free and fair election here in Michigan and that the margin was significant enough that even having this process leads to a concern from many of us that there is an effort to simply overturn the clear will of the voters," Irwin said. "If that is what’s happening here, then we’re going to have a real serious problem in this nation."

Even if the intent of the hearing was to overturn the will of Michigan voters, the state Legislature has no ability nor legal authority to do so.

U.S. law requires state governors to prepare Certificates of Ascertainment of the vote after the bipartisan State Board of Canvassers certifies the official results. This process includes recording the names of electors that meet at the state house and their electoral college votes.

Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) was more direct.

"It’s a done deal," Johnson said. "This is political theatre. ... We can stop this right now."

Indeed, the issuance of subpoenas is unique for the state Legislature.

Rep. David LaGrand said the move was combative.

"I am convinced that an indivisible republic relies on trust and cooperation," LaGrand said. "... I’m a lawyer. When we issue subpoenas, we put an imprimatur of adversarial dynamics onto proceedings ."

First reported by Michigan Advance, Senate and House majority leaders sent a letter to Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater that lawmakers were seeking information about the May mailing of absent voter applications and September mailings of postcards and letters sent to individuals with a Michigan driver's license but not registered to vote.

Whether a Michigan citizen receives an application to vote absentee, or is encouraged to vote through other mailings, local election officials are required to check if someone is eligible to vote before sending them an absentee ballot.

Additionally, each ballot has a barcode to ensure that no vote is counted twice.

Conservative-leaning studies, including one launched by the Trump administration, have never identified evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Before anyone received an absentee ballot, their signature was matched to the one officials have on file. The signature on the return envelope is also matched to the signature on file.

Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) said the hearing was necessary to prevent the division seen during election week turning up again in the future.

"There are really millions of people across our state who have questions about this process," Hall said. There are rumors. Maybe they don’t know what really happened . Part of that healing process is to go through these things to debunk things that aren’t true."

Allegations Hall repeated from Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox have already been debunked.

Trump campaign lawsuits brought to Michigan courts have already been denied.

GOP challengers were not denied access to vote counting in Detroit. In fact, hundreds were inside the building observing, according to the Detroit Free Press.

According to audio obtained by the Guardian, Stuart Foster, a Republican operative who trained party ballot challengers in Michigan, said he was “confident with our election system.”

“I’ll get myself into trouble here," Foster said. "I basically made the comment like, so if fraud was so prevalent, then did the Democrats forget to do it in 2016? They just forgot to do it? I mean, Trump … barely won. And it’s not because he didn’t win. (Democrats) just didn’t show up. Did they just forget? Fraud was so prevalent, but they just forgot to do it?”

Beyond the false statement that challengers were denied access, the Detroit Free Press also debunked allegations including:

Bridge Magazine also debunked disinformation amplified by the Michigan GOP, as did Republican City Clerk of Rochester Hills Tina Barton.

“We’re not enemies," Johnson said. "We’re not supposed to be enemies. The enemy is COVID, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans that’s who our enemy is. This right here is insane and I’m hoping, I’m praying, that we will get back to Democrats and Republicans, not Democrats and Trump Republicans”

The full, unedited response to allegations of irregularity from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is below:

• Michigan’s elections were conducted fairly, effectively and transparently and are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan voters.

• The erroneous reporting of unofficial results from Antrim county was a result of accidental error on the part of the Antrim County Clerk. The equipment and software did not malfunction and all ballots were properly tabulated. However, the clerk accidentally did not update the software used to collect voting machine data and report unofficial results.

• Like many counties in Michigan, Antrim County uses the Dominion Voting Systems election management system and voting machines (ballot tabulators.) The county receives programming support from Election Source. Tabulators are programmed to scan hand marked, paper ballots. When machines are finished scanning the ballots, the paper ballots are retained and a totals tape showing the number of votes for each candidate in each race is printed from the machine.

• In order to report unofficial results, county clerks use election management system software to combine the electronic totals from tabulators and submit a report of unofficial results. Because the clerk did not update software, even though the tabulators counted all the ballots correctly, those accurate results were not combined properly when the clerk reported unofficial results.

• The correct results always were and continue to be reflected on the tabulator totals tape and on the ballots themselves. Even if the error in the reported unofficial results had not been quickly noticed, it would have been identified during the county canvass. Boards of County Canvassers, which are composed of 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans, review the printed totals tape from each tabulator during the canvass to verify the reported vote totals are correct.

• The software did not cause a misallocation of votes; it was a result of user human error. Even when human error occurs, it is caught during county canvasses.

• It is also completely false that the county had to or will have to hand count all their ballots. The ballots were properly counted by the tabulators. The county had to review the printed tabulator results from each precinct, not each individual ballot.

• As with other unofficial results reporting errors, this was an honest mistake and did not affect any actual vote totals. Election clerks work extremely hard and do their work with integrity. They are human beings, and sometimes make mistakes. However, there are many checks and balances that ensure mistakes can be caught and corrected.

• As Detroit officials have stated, hundreds of challengers from both parties were inside their absent voter counting board all afternoon and evening. And even after some left, there were always challengers from both parties in the room. Dozens of reporters were in the room as well. Further, some windows were covered to stop those outside from filming the people and private information in the counting board, while other windows were left uncovered to ensure additional transparency.

• As was stated by Chris Thomas, who as a contractor for the Detroit City Clerk’s Office served as an advisor on the execution of this election and led challenger relations, and who is the former Michigan Director of Elections, who served under both republican and democrat Secretaries of State during his 40-year-tenure with the Bureau of Elections, no ballots were backdated. Rather, a clerical error was made when some ballot envelopes were received in Detroit satellite offices. Although employees stamped a date of receipt on the envelopes, an employee failed to complete the transaction for receiving the ballot by saving that date in the Qualified Voter File. Therefore, at the absent voter counting board, after discussion with Republican challengers who chose not to challenge the process, staff was instructed to enter that date stamped on the envelope ensuring that no voters were disenfranchised by the clerical error.

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