Despite concerns of ‘fishing expedition,’ state canvassers approve limited recount on Props 2 and 3

By: - December 6, 2022 7:00 am

Proposal 3 sign | Susan J. Demas

A week after certifying the Nov. 8 election results, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously Monday to allow requested recounts of two ballot proposals to move ahead.

The 3-0 vote followed almost three hours of discussion and public comment concerning the petitions filed last week by Jerome Jay Allen of Bloomfield Township targeting Proposal 2, which expanded voting rights, and Proposal 3, which enshrined abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution. 

Despite the petitions making disproven claims about software altering votes and election equipment being connected to the internet, board members said state law required them to proceed even though they had no statistical chance to change the outcome. The recounts are slated to begin Wednesday.

State law allows for any voter “who believes that there has been fraud or error” to seek a recount within two days of that certification, as long as they pay a deposit of $125 per precinct.

The Nov. 8 results on the ballot measures were not close. Proposal 2 passed by a 20-point statewide margin, while Proposal 3 won by 13 points. The measures were opposed by the Michigan Republican Party.

Taking credit for the petitions was Election Integrity Force (EIF), a Michigan GOP group that has made numerous false claims about the 2020 election.

EIF also said the cost of the recount, which is expected to cost at least $75,000, had been made possible by financial support from The America Project. The Sarasota, Fla.-based group is led by Patrick Byrne, who has been a former President Donald Trump supporter and is a former CEO of Overstock.com. 

Allen is seeking to recount 47 precincts in Kalamazoo, Macomb, Muskegon, and Oakland counties for Proposal 2, and 560 precincts across dozens of other counties for Proposal 3. Each proposal passed statewide with approximately 60% support.

Allen alleges that the recount was necessitated by concerns over “a significant risk of foreign or domestic hacking” taking place in the election. 

Similar claims have persisted among Republicans since Trump lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden. They have been continually disproven, including by a 2021 report from the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate Oversight Committee which “found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election,” and concluded “citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan.”

Allen’s attorney, Daniel Hartman, argued that if any issues arose during the recounts, county canvassing boards would have the authority to investigate, including the issuance of subpoenas.

That was hotly contested by Republican board member Tony Daunt, who called the effort a “fishing expedition.”

Hartman’s contention was also disputed by Mark Brewer, an elections lawyer and former Michigan Democratic Party chair, who tweeted that county boards were not empowered statutorily to take those actions. 

“The law is clear that the statewide recount process is under the exclusive control of the Board of State Canvassers: the county boards of canvassers have no authority to do anything except recount the ballots under the supervision of the State Board,” said Brewer.

The board concurred and added guidelines preventing county boards from conducting their own investigations, while also deciding that hundreds of in-person voting precincts in Detroit that had been added to the notarized filing did not qualify for recounting.

About half of the state’s 83 counties have at least one precinct listed on at least one of the petitions, while Kalamazoo, Macomb, Muskegon, and Oakland counties have at least one precinct on both petitions.

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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.

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