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Benson says petition to ‘audit’ the 2020 election ‘threatens the survival of our democracy’

By: - December 23, 2021 5:00 am

Right-wing rally calling for a so-called “audit” of the 2020 election at the Michigan Capitol, Oct. 12, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins

Audit Forward, a group demanding a so-called “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election, submitted a petition to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office Tuesday. 

This is similar to what pro-Donald Trump supporters have done in Arizona and Wisconsin, two other states the former GOP president lost in 2020.

The petition would require a review of all ballots and vote tallies for all federal, state and local elections, an examination of all state voter registrations and a review of all secretary of state communications, among a number of other requirements. Additionally, the petition aims to create triggers that would mandate “forensic audits” of future elections, such as tampered ballot boxes, destroyed election materials or when at least two poll books in a precinct are out of balance. 

The petition states that local communities that do not cooperate with an “audit” are at risk of losing 10% of their state funding and anyone who interferes with the “audit” would be subject to a felony charge of up to one year or a fine of not more than $1,000. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a press conference announcing Democrats’ voting rights bill package, Nov. 3, 2021, at the Ingham County Courthouse | Laina G. Stebbins

After more than a year since the 2020 presidential election, when Biden defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan, far-right extremists are still pushing that the election was fraudulent. 

An investigation in June by the Republican-controlled Senate Oversight Committee, court rulings and audits have all upheld the results of Michigan’s election. 

According to Benson, more than 250 state and local audits have confirmed the accuracy and integrity of Michigan’s election, and none have come up with any evidence of widespread voter fraud. 

Calls persist from those who have been lied to and taken advantage of by partisan state legislators, national figures, and others for unofficial, illegitimate reviews of the election results,” Benson said in a statement. “This small group of grifters and wealthy supporters is pursuing a political strategy that threatens the survival of our democracy, and our nation.”

Benson said the Bureau of Elections will process the petition “in a nonpartisan and unbiased manner, as they would any other submission.”

Voting rights advocacy groups also pushed back against the petition. 

“Like other proposed election sabotage efforts, this will harm our democracy for every Michigander. At a time when clerks and election officials are already overloaded, this initiative will add further burdens and strains on resources,” All Voting is Local Michigan and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Not only should Michigan voters refuse to sign it, but our elected officials must publicly disavow it and strongly discourage any future anti-voter efforts.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.