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Michigan Republican-led investigation rejects Trump's claim that Nov. 3 election was stolen

In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit. (AP) In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit. (AP)

In this Sept. 24, 2020, file photo, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks in Detroit. (AP)

Dave Boucher
By Dave Boucher June 23, 2021
Clara Hendrickson
By Clara Hendrickson June 23, 2021

An investigation led by Michigan Republican lawmakers found no basis for claims by former President Donald Trump and his allies that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, a Michigan Senate report released Wednesday concludes.

The results of the inquiry by the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee, chaired by a Republican and comprised of a GOP-majority, are the latest repudiation of conspiracies and lies revolving around Michigan's election results. 

"The Committee found no evidence of widespread or systemic fraud in Michigan's prosecution of the 2020 election," the report states.  

"Citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan."

Months after his presidency ended with a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol and a second impeachment attempt, Trump continues to falsely assert that the election was stolen from him and has targeted Michigan's senators to uphold the lie. 

In a May 7 statement, Trump said Michigan's senators "should be run out of office" if they haven't "started their review of the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020."

But the Senate Oversight Committee launched its election inquiry nearly eight months ago, convening during a rare Saturday hearing at about the same time that major networks and other news organizations declared Joe Biden won the presidency. 

"Certain things that are speculated aren't possible," McBroom said. The report's aim is to "provide answers to people who are looking for answers."  

The 55-page report debunks a number of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and irregularities, including claims that dead people voted, that hundreds of thousands of unsolicited absentee ballots were sent to Michigan voters, that a machine error switched votes in Antrim County and that tabulators at the TCF Center in Detroit where absentee ballots were counted were connected to the internet. 

While the report repudiates Trump's claims of a stolen election, lawmakers have pointed to mistrust created by Trump's claims as a rationale for introducing a controversial series of 39 bills that would establish new voting restrictions. McBroom sits on the GOP-controlled Senate Elections Committee currently moving the bills to the floor for a vote. 

Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, said the report demonstrates the need for the package, which contains legislation voting rights advocates and election officials say would disenfranchise voters.

"That we need election reform is clear. That there were vulnerabilities is also clear and also mentioned in this document. I think it’s extremely important that we highlight that," she said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer disagreed.

The report’s conclusion shows there is not a need for changes to Michigan election law, so it is "mind-boggling" how legislative Republicans can produce such a report and continue to push the legislative package they are now pursuing, she said.

The report supports legislation that would prohibit the secretary of state from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson mailed ballot applications to every registered voter in the state ahead of the election that the committee said made the vote vulnerable to fraud.

The report also recommends hiring more Republican poll workers in Detroit to ensure partisan balance among election workers and supports proposals in two Republican bills that would lock drop boxes before polling locations close and require canvassers to be present during the canvassing process, which Benson's office says would empower local partisans to stall the process and potentially derail the certification of results.

Whether the report will convince Republicans who believe that Biden did not legitimately win the election remains to be seen. Its release comes at a time when the Michigan GOP and state Republican lawmakers face growing pressure from pro-Trump activists who have spoken out fervently against those who dismiss allegations of election fraud and have called on lawmakers to take additional steps to investigate the results. 

Michigan Republican Party precinct delegates recently delivered a resolution calling on the party's leadership to fire Michigan GOP Executive Director Jason Cabel Roe because he told POLITICO last year that "the election wasn’t stolen" and that "there is no one to blame but Trump" for the party's defeat in the presidential election. 

On June 17, a pro-Trump group gathered for a rally on the steps of the Capitol in Lansing before delivering thousands of affidavits calling on Republican officials to push for an audit of the Nov. 3 election.

The report's release also coincides with new calls to continue to reexamine the election just this week. 

On Tuesday, the Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners moved forward with a request to the Bureau of Elections to conduct an audit of the Nov. 3 election that would look into whether tabulators were connected to an "unauthorized computer" that "manipulated" vote totals, according to a draft letter on the county's website. That same day, Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, introduced a bill to conduct another statewide audit

Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, who sits on oversight committee, said that efforts to reexamine the election should be ongoing. He said he supported the report "knowing that we’ll be continuing to watch and continuing to audit the situation."

More than 250 audits of the election already completed have affirmed the results, including in Antrim County where a human error led to inaccurate reporting of unofficial election night results that fueled the conspiracy theory that tabulators manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems switched votes from Trump to Biden.

A letter from McBroom at the beginning of the report states that "all compelling theories that sprang forth from the rumors surrounding Antrim County are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further." 

And the report calls on the attorney general's office to consider launching an investigation into those "utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends." The attorney general's office will review the report and determine whether a criminal investigation is appropriate, the office's spokesperson, Lynsey Mukomel told the Free Press.

McBroom said that calls for more audits in Michigan are "not justifiable" because they are largely based on the unfounded claims of vote-switching in Antrim County. But McBroom said he is "keeping a close eye" on the election audit in Arizona's Maricopa County, which was described by the Republican chair of the County Board of Supervisors as "a grift disguised as an audit." 

Republicans in the Arizona Senate hired the Florida-based firm Cyber Ninjas to carry out the election review. Cyber Ninjas provided analysis to support the fraud allegations leveled in an Antrim County lawsuit that served as a vehicle for election conspiracies, and the firm's CEO has promoted election fraud claims. 

If the Maricopa audit surfaces problems with the election, McBroom said he "will not hesitate" to ask his committee to consider recommending an audit in Michigan or revising the report.

While leading the oversight committee's investigation into the election, McBroom welcomed those who claimed they had first-hand accounts that fraud occurred in the 2020 election. 

During its initial hearing in its election investigation, the committee heard first from former Republican state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who falsely asserted that the tabulators used at the TCF Center was connected to the internet. The committee proceeded to hear hours of testimony from Republican election challengers who worked at TCF. Many of the individuals who spoke mistook standard election processes for misconduct and fraud. 

Over the course of its investigation, the committee also heard from election officials including clerks, canvassers and former Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas, who helped oversee the absentee ballot counting process in Detroit. 

"Whether you're happy with the outcome of the election or not, nobody should be happy with all of the turmoil and confusion and questions that came up afterwards," McBroom said. 

Detroit Free Press staff writer Paul Egan contributed to this story.

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Michigan Republican-led investigation rejects Trump's claim that Nov. 3 election was stolen