Michigan Senate GOP probe: No systemic fraud in election

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FILE – In this June 17, 2021 file photo, conservatives gather on the steps of the Michigan Capitol before delivering thousands of affidavits requesting that lawmakers order an “forensic” audit of the 2020 election in Lansing, Mich. Senate Republicans who investigated Michigan’s presidential election say there was no widespread or systemic fraud in a report Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (AP Photo/David Eggert File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State Senate Republicans who investigated Michigan’s 2020 presidential election for months concluded there was no widespread or systemic fraud and urged the state attorney general to consider probing people who have made baseless allegations about the results in Antrim County to raise money or publicity “for their own ends.”

The GOP-led state Senate Oversight Committee said in a 55-page report released Wednesday that citizens should be confident that the election’s outcome represents the “true results.” Democrat Joe Biden defeated then-President Donald Trump by about 155,000 votes, or 2.8 percentage points, in the battleground state.

Trump and his allies have pushed debunked conspiracy theories and unfounded information about voter fraud.

“The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain,” the panel wrote days after Republican activists requested an Arizona-style “forensic” audit of the election.

The committee’s three Republicans did recommend legislation to close “real vulnerabilities” in future elections. Election-related bills are pending in the GOP-controlled Legislature, including proposed tougher photo ID rules that the Senate passed last week and the House amended and approved Wednesday. But Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will veto them if they reach her desk.

Election night results in northern Michigan’s rural Antrim County, which has roughly 23,000 residents, initially erroneously showed a local victory for Biden over Trump. But it was attributed to human error, not any problems with machines, and corrected. A hand recount turned up no signs of shenanigans.

“We will review the report in its entirety in order to determine if a criminal investigation is appropriate,” Lynsey Mukomel, spokeswoman for Attorney General Dana Nessel, said of the call to probe individuals who have lied about what happened in Antrim.

People mentioned in the report include Mike Lindell, the MyPillow creator-turned-conspiracy peddler; lawyer Matthew DePerno, who unsuccessfully sued the county on behalf of a resident, and ex-state Sen. Patrick Colbeck. The report also criticized Texas-based Allied Security Operations Group, a company that worked with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to raise baseless allegations of fraud and counting errors.

The report dismissed various allegations — that many dead people voted, that hundreds of thousands of unsolicited absentee ballots were mailed to Michigan voters, that absentee ballots were counted multiple times, that tens of thousands of fraudulent absentee ballots were “dumped” at Detroit’s counting center after the polls closed. Those ballots had been submitted throughout Election Day in drop boxes, in the mail and at clerk’s offices.

The panel’s Republicans recommended that drop boxes not be used or be closed sooner than 8 p.m. on election night so that processing and tabulating the ballots they contain do not extend long into the night. Democrats have said the move would disenfranchise some voters.

“The committee’s report goes into considerable detail … and I hope the public is reassured by the security and protections already in place, motivated to support necessary reforms to make it better and grateful for our fellow citizens who do the hard work of conducting our elections,” said Sen. Ed McBroom, a Vulcan Republican who chairs the panel. Other recommendations include uniform signature-verification standards, the authorization of counting to begin before Election Day and the prohibition of unsolicited mailings of absentee ballot applications by the secretary of state.

The lone Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, noted that its two other members had been among 11 GOP senators who asked Congress to investigate “credible” allegations of election misconduct on Jan. 4, two days before it met to certify Biden’s win amid the deadly insurrection by Trump supporters at the Capitol.

“It is unfortunate that the Michigan Legislature participated in the circus, parading witnesses who were not credible or who pressed obvious falsehoods in order to promote the lie that Michigan’s results were tainted,” he said. “But it is my fervent hope that we, as a legislative body, can finally focus our energy on getting help out to our residents who need it most after such a tumultuous year for many due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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