Local clerks grapple with GOP Rep. Berman’s ‘mini-investigation’ into 2020 election

By: - June 6, 2022 4:14 am

The crowd at a Trump Rally outside the Michigan State Capitol protesting his loss, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

While municipal clerks across Michigan are busy preparing for the August primary elections, several of them are also contending with requests from a Republican state lawmaker about the 2020 election.

The office of state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) recently sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Delhi Charter Township Clerk Evan Hope, asking for the front and back of every ballot from the Nov. 3, 2020, election for Precinct 6 of Delhi Township in Ingham County.

“I would like the copies to be photoscanned, however, if one is not available our team can come to the Clerk’s office to photoscan them ourselves with our own machine,” stated the May 26 request from Joseph Stevenson, Berman’s legislative assistant  reviewed by the Michigan Advance. “This is part of a mini-investigation our office is currently doing on precincts across the state.”

Gongwer News Service reported last month that Berman had voluntarily stepped down from his committee assignments to concentrate on legislation and “special projects,” which was confirmed for the Advance by Gideon D’Assandro, House GOP spokesman.

Berman began conducting the “mini-investigation” while he was still a GOP candidate for Michigan attorney general. In April, he lost the Michigan GOP endorsement to Kalamazoo lawyer Matthew DePerno, who has been involved in so-called “forensic audit” efforts in Michigan and Arizona.

Ryan Berman

At the time, Berman said his investigation was in response to “widespread claims of machine vote-flipping after 2020,” although all of those claims have come without proof and have been debunked by over 250 state and local audits which have confirmed President Joe Biden’s more than 154,000-vote victory over former President Trump.

Tracy Wimmer, spokesperson for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, told the Advance there is no legitimate reason to continue questioning an election that has been thoroughly examined.

“Hundreds of audits, numerous court cases and a Republican state Senate Oversight Committee report all affirmed the accuracy of the 2020 election results, and the truth about its integrity,” said Wimmer. “Documents relating to the election, including the ballots, are publicly available and anyone who wishes can view them and see the truth for themselves.”

Despite that, Berman previously issued FOIAs for ballots in three precincts in Allegan, Antrim and Macomb counties, even sending staff members to two of the precincts where they took ultra-HD scans of the ballots. The result, released April 9, was a conclusion that “given the near-exact match of the hand recount to the machine counts from precincts around the state using different machine types, it seems highly improbable that machines flipped votes in Michigan.”

It is unclear why Berman has now directed his attention to Delhi Township in Ingham County. A request for comment has gone unreturned by the representative.

It’s also a question that Hope would like answered.

“I have no idea why he made the request and why that precinct,” Hope told  the Michigan Advance, “especially nearly 19 months since the November 2020 election has passed. My only guess can be that he wants to conduct another audit, in addition to the hundreds of audits that were conducted statewide. Those audits showed that the Election Day results were accurate.”

Hope, who is married to state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Delhi Twp.), says that in his 24 years of experience as a municipal clerk, he knows that voting tabulators are more accurate than whatever process Berman plans. 

“Hand counts by humans are more likely to result in errors,” said Evan Hope. “Especially by people who don’t know the rules of counting votes. I would question if he knows how to correctly count overvotes, overvotes caused by invalid write-ins, or ambiguous marks. I’d guess he knows very little about that or how elections work at all. I don’t think someone who knows how elections work would be making this request. But, I’ll admit I’m making an assumption, because he did not tell me what his ‘mini-investigation’ is about. Nor did he ask me any election related questions.”

Hope also questions the timing of the request, considering the effort that will be expended to fulfill it.

“This will take some considerable amount of time,” he said. “And at a time when we are preparing for the August 2022 primary. And since he doesn’t seem to want to tell people what he’s doing, I could assume that’s a tactic as well – consume clerks time with this request so we aren’t prepared for August?”


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.