Thursday, May 19, 2022

Voting issues ensue at Michigan Republican endorsement convention

April 25, 2022
<p>Matthew Deperno, a candidate for Attorney General, basks in the cheers during his campaign at the MI GOP Endorsement Conference on April 23, 2022.</p>

Matthew Deperno, a candidate for Attorney General, basks in the cheers during his campaign at the MI GOP Endorsement Conference on April 23, 2022.

Photo by Olivia Hans | The State News

At the Michigan Republican Endorsement Convention in Grand Rapids on Saturday, during which several candidates for the office of the Attorney General and Secretary of State peddled lies and mistruths about the 2020 election being stolen, problems ensued with spoiled ballots, pausing the casting of votes during the second ballot.

After the first vote, in which Trump-backed Kristina Karamo won the endorsement for Secretary of State, a second ballot was called for the Attorney General race, the state board of education race, the Michigan State Board of Trustees and the University of Michigan Board of Regents.

Human error in the displaying of candidates on the big screen not matching up with the order they were listed on the second ballot caused confusion among precinct delegates, leading to a pause in voting.

The big screen over the voting areas had the candidates initially listed in the order of MSU Trustee, Board of Education, UM Regent and Attorney General. 

But, the actual ballot that voters were using had the races listed as attorney general, secretary of state (voters were told to abstain as Karamo had won already), MSU Trustee, UM Regent and Board of Education.

The big screen not matching with the ballots led to voters miscasting their ballots if they did not read the ballots and just used what was on the screen. The ballots also only listed candidates as “Candidate A, Candidate B,” etc., so delegates needed to look at the big screen to know which candidate was listed as A and which was listed as B.

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After around 30 minutes of voting being paused, Michigan GOP Co-Chair Ron Weiser announced that voting could resume, but did not provide an explanation of what issues arose, causing stress and uncertainty among the precinct delegates.

John Lauve, a former gubernatorial candidate from the 1990s, told reporters that the convention was a joke and embarrassing for the state party. 

“It’s an insult to people’s time we put into coming here to do this,” Lauve told Gongwer Michigan.

Former State Rep. Aaron Miller told reporters he was one of the precinct delegates who spoiled his ballot because he thought the attorney general race was in the bottom left, rather than the top right. 

“I went in (to vote) with that order in mind because we stared at that screen for a long time,” Miller said. “Several people with me had to spoil their ballots. Because the order’s off, people were confused.”

Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, who had been a candidate for Secretary of State, said the convention was bad, but that there could not be a third vote because delegates had left after possibly voting incorrectly.

“People have gone back to the Upper Peninsula, or gone back to Detroit, Lansing, Clare,” LaFave said. “They’re gone. … I have never seen a convention run this poorly.”

The situation caused confusion among delegates, leading to both attorney general candidate Tom Leonard to message his supporters and tell them to stick around in case there was to be a third ballot.

State Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, was a precinct delegate for Ottawa County. He said he was there to support Leonard but that he was afraid that should Leonard win the actual vote, Matthew DePerno, the other candidate, would use the chance to claim the ballot counting was stolen and fraud. Ultimately, DePerno won.

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In an interview with reporters after voting resumed, the communication director for the Michigan Republican Party, Gustavo Portela, said that both DePerno and Leonard were asked how they wished to proceed and both candidates were OK with continuing voting.

Portela said the party does not believe any votes were affected and that the party was not afraid about this affecting precinct delegates’ confidence in the results.

“This is mostly pro-voter,” Portela said. “As we do care about the integrity of this election, we wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, the voters' concerns were not just heard, but that we were able to move on with every campaign involved ultimately agreeing to proceed before doing anything.”

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