Thursday, February 2, 2023

Michigan’s midterm results have been certified. What does that mean for election misinformation?

December 1, 2022
<p>Donald Trump at his rally held in support of Michigan’s GOP midterm ticket on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Macomb Community College. </p>

Donald Trump at his rally held in support of Michigan’s GOP midterm ticket on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 at Macomb Community College.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

In a show of consensus in the face of protests, the Board of State Canvassers voted on Monday to certify the Nov. 8 midterm election results of all 83 of Michigan’s counties.  

The meeting lasted nearly four hours and heard several heated public comments, one of which led to the removal of an attendee from the room. Former Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo and former U.S. Taxpayers Party gubernatorial candidate Donna Brandenburg also spoke out at the meeting against existing election laws.

The Board of State Canvassers consists of four members, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. All four members pushed back against claims of fraud during the meeting. Republican board member Richard Houskamp said that accusations of impropriety during the process of counting votes were unfounded. 

“We keep hearing allegations of fraud and allegations of mismanagement of an election,” Houskamp said. “That is not what the evidence says in any of those documents.”

The Board’s unanimous certification marks a departure from the tensions that surrounded the certification of election results in 2020, when canvassers narrowly avoided a deadlock that would have sent Michigan’s votes to court. 

Michigan State University political science professor Marty Jordan said that this year’s certifications in Michigan and in other states with similar electoral outcomes could represent a turning point in the national dialogue about election integrity. He said that Republicans may be realizing that candidates who perpetuate falsehoods about election fraud are harmful to their policy agendas. 

“Given that they sort of lost in a pretty resounding way, not just in Michigan, but even in other states – from Michigan, from Arizona, from Georgia, from Pennsylvania – you look at all these states where election deniers and people who questioned the results of the 2020 election did not do well in competitive markets,” Jordan said.

Michigan was marked during the midterm election cycle as one of the states with a large number of candidates on the ballot who routinely repeated false information about election results. All three Republican candidates at the top of the ticket – Tudor Dixon, Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo – had asserted that former president Donald Trump was the true winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Swarms of candidates across the country, from school boards to statehouses to bids for Congress, ran on platforms centered around what some have called “the Big Lie," but they didn’t seem to have electoral success with swing or independent voters. In Michigan, election-denying candidates’ wins tended to be in solidly conservative districts, whereas competitive races tipped in favor of Democratic candidates. 

Jordan said that sweeping losses in Michigan will likely force the state GOP to change the way it approaches election integrity as an issue in future races.

“I think there will be a reevaluation within the Republican Party about perpetuating these myths about electoral fraud, as well as putting up candidates who perpetuate these myths,” Jordan said.

So what does this mean for the demographic of voters for whom election integrity and the falsehoods that surround it is a central issue? The movement could begin to peter out as state Republican parties move other topics to the top of the priority list and rhetoric shifts away from election fraud as an immediate threat. 

“So long as it's no longer under attack, so long as no one really is able to continue to perpetuate that and win elections, I don't think election integrity remains a center piece, a key issue for voters,” Jordan said.

As for future elections, particularly the forthcoming 2024 presidential primary, the GOP will likely stand at a crossroads when it comes to addressing election integrity.

 “It's something that the Republican Party is going to have to find a way to navigate and sort of stamp out in a resounding fashion to say, ‘No, we're not going to continue to perpetuate these myths, these lies, and if we do it'll be at our own defeat,’” Jordan said.

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