Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas
Shortly before Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the next president of the United States by media outlets, a Republican-heavy joint committee of lawmakers voted in Lansing to issue subpoenas and investigate unfounded allegations of election fraud in Michigan.
“This hearing is the culmination of months of work done by this Legislature’s GOP leadership to sow chaos and uncertainty in Michigan’s elections,” state Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.) said before the vote was called. “… There is only hearsay and partisan hopes. These are the last cries of sore losers.”
Many of those allegations stem from suspicions about election workers having to count absentee ballots several days after Tuesday’s election — a reality that Michigan Republicans manufactured themselves, as the Legislature refused numerous times over more than a year to amend state law and allow for early counting. Local clerks, Democrats and Republicans alike, had asked for the change, in light of the record-breaking amount of absentee ballots, fueled by both the COVID-19 pandemic and a 2018 voting rights law.
Biden also won the state by a wider margin than Republican President Donald Trump did in 2016 — by roughly 150,000 votes. That has not stopped GOP legislators and other party officials from casting doubt on the ballot-counting process, particularly in Detroit.
As the Advance first reported Friday, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) wrote a letter to Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater warning him of incoming subpoenas.
The House and Senate Oversight committees voted during the unusual Saturday morning hearing — along party lines — to issue subpoenas to the bureau and potentially other departments or state entities.
State Reps. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) and David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) spoke out against Republican members’ intentions in moving forward on the investigation.
“I would urge every single member of this committee to consider whether subpoenas are a necessary step in the absence of any demonstrated lack of cooperation with other members of this government,” LaGrand said.
LaGrand, an attorney, said that conspiracy theories risk the cohesion of democracy and there needs to be a stated rational basis before launching such a serious investigation.
But House Oversight Chair state Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) and Senate Oversight Chair state Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) insisted that they have heard enough allegations from constituents concerned about election integrity to constitute an investigation.
Hall alleged that some residents have gotten multiple absentee ballots applications* in the mail and, and he has heard from “hundreds and hundred of upset, confused” constituents about the election process. He and McBroom argued that the intent of the inquiry is not “antagonistic” or motivated by partisanship, but merely an effort to ensure Michigan’s election process is working as it should.
There have been numerous right-wing conspiracy theories online about the election in Michigan and other battleground states that outlets like the New York Times and Factcheck.org have debunked. A Michigan judge also tossed a Trump suit this week alleging voter problems. The hearing took place as Trump supporters started to assemble on the Capitol lawn.
A motion to approve issuing subpoenas passed 4-1 along party lines in the Senate committee and 6-3 along party lines in the House committee.
Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and other election officials have said repeatedly that Tuesday’s process went smoothly and that the state’s system is safe and secure.
Correction: This story has been updated to note that Hall said people received multiple ballot applications.
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