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Mich. Senate Recommends Investigation of Election Fraud Claims

A report from the state’s Oversight Committee has recommended that Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office conduct an investigation of individuals who pushed claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

(TNS) — A long-awaited report on the 2020 election from a Michigan Senate committee recommends that Attorney General Dana Nessel's office consider investigating individuals who have pushed false claims "to raise money or publicity for their own ends."

The suggestion, which focused on misleading statements about the results in Antrim County, is among the most striking details of the Republican-controlled Senate Oversight Committee's recap of a months-long examination of the presidential election. The report was released Wednesday morning.

"The committee finds those promoting Antrim County as the prime evidence of a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election place all other statements and actions they make in a position of zero credibility," the document says.

While the report cautions that there are "glaring issues that must be addressed" in state election law, it adds there is "no evidence presented at this time" to prove "significant acts of fraud" occurred to subvert the will of voters.

The findings from the committee, led by Sen. Ed McBoom, R- Vulcan, came as Republican lawmakers continue to push bills to expand voter identification requirements and block the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot applications. However, the report's conclusionsdirectly conflict with the statements of some GOP activists and former President Donald Trump himself, who have levied unsubstantiated claims of widespread wrongdoing in Michigan and sought to overturn the battleground state's election results based on those assertions.

The Oversight Committee voted 3-1 Wednesday morning to adopt McBroom's report, which was described as an "initial" examination. Only Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor, the lone Democrat on the panel, opposed the report. He said the document landed on "some good conclusions" but contended Michigan already has laws in place to protect against irregularities.

In an interview after the meeting, McBroom said the committee has found what appears to be "potentially fraudulent activity" among some of those who have been making false claims about the election.

"If you are profiting by making false claims, that's pretty much the definition of fraud," McBroom said.

He declined to identify which individuals he was specifically referring to. Nessel spokeswoman Lynsey Mukomel said the office will review the Senate report in its entirety to determine if a criminal investigation is appropriate.

Democrat Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points. A series of court decisions, bipartisan boards of state canvassers and reviews by election officials have reinforced the outcome.

"Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan," the Senate committee's report concluded. "The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.

"We also conclude citizens should demand reasonable updates and reforms to close real vulnerabilities and unlawful activities that caused much of the doubt and questionability to flourish and could, if unchecked, be responsible for serious and disastrous fraud or confusion in the future."

The report was developed through 28 hours of committee testimony from about 90 people, a review of thousands of subpoenaed documents and hundreds of hours of Senate staff investigation, according to the document.

It calls on Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, to stop sending out unsolicited absentee ballot applications, which the committee describes as an act that allows for "vulnerabilities." It also says Benson should begin the process of establishing "actual rules for examining and validating signatures" for absentee voting.

But some of the report's most aggressive comments are aimed at individuals who've made faulty claims about the election in 23,000-person Antrim County, where human errors by election officials, including the failure to update equipment after changing the ballot design, led to incorrect initial results.

The initial election results reported to the public for the conservative county had Biden winning there by 3,260 votes with 62 percent of the overall total. Problems were quickly identified but inspired national conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems, the voting equipment used in Antrim County and the majority of Michigan's 83 counties.

"Events in Antrim County sparked a significant amount of concern about the technology used to count ballots," the Senate committee report said. "This concern led to much speculation, assumptions, misinformation and, in some cases, outright lies meant to create doubt and confusion.

"The many hours of testimony before the committee showed these claims are unjustified and unfair to the people of Antrim County and the state of Michigan."

After realizing there were problems with the numbers, Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy's office canvassed the election results and later reported the official tallies: Trump had won the county by 3,788 votes, 61 percent-37 percent, a 7,048-vote swing from the unofficial results.

The new Senate committee report emphasized that the official results and the outcome of a hand recount closely mirrored the tallies from the tapes of tabulators immediately after Election Day.

The numbers show "ideas and speculation that the Antrim election workers or outside entities manipulated the vote by hand or electronically are indefensible," the Senate report said.

"Further, the committee is appalled at what can only be deduced as a willful ignorance or avoidance of this proof perpetuated by some leading such speculation," the report added.

The report criticized Allied Security Operations Group, the Texas-based firm that released a report in December on Antrim County's election, and lawyer Matthew DePerno, who has a led an unsuccessful legal challenge against the county. The Senate committee labeled DePerno's claims "demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions."

DePerno and others have insisted Dominion machines in Antrim could have been "hacked" because they had modems or wireless chips installed, the report said. However, that claim is "indisputably false," the Senate committee found.

" Antrim County did not utilize modems or any internet or wireless network to transmit voting results ever," the document added. "This incredibly conclusive fact, along with the hand recount of the ballots, serve as the irrefutable bulwarks against all allegations."

The Senate committee said it was "extremely disappointed" with the errors in Antrim County but commended the efforts of Guy's staff and volunteers who corrected the errors.

"The committee recommends the Attorney General consider investigating those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends," the report said.

DePerno's website links to an " Election Fraud Defense Fund," which says it has raised about $321,000. In April, lawyers working on behalf of Dominion Voting Systems said former Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Canton Township Republican and another vocal critic of the 2020 election, had raised money from audiences while "knowingly sowing discord in our democracy."

Colbeck has denied the claim. According to Colbeck, he had raised $30,195 through memberships and donations from his website.In a statement Wednesday, he said he "netted" less than 50 percent of the $30,195 figure.

"For me, it is about the pursuit of truth, not financial gain," he added.

The former senator also blasted current lawmakers for not doing more to probe the 2020 election.

" Arizona legislators are pursuing an audit. Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin legislators are poised to pursue audits as well," Colbeck said. " Michigan? Going on summer break and calling for an investigation of anyone seeking to investigate election fraud."

DePerno didn't immediately respond Wednesday morning to requests for comment.

The new Senate report comes amid a push by some Trump supporters to require an audit of Michigan's 2020 election. Rep. Steve Carra, R- Three Rivers, introduced a bill on the subject Tuesday, pushing a review as an attempt to verify the results.

In a letter that accompanied the new report, McBroom said he is keeping a "close eye" on the audit of results in Arizona's Maricopa County.

"If genuine issues are shown in Arizona's audit or from continued investigation here, I will not hesitate to ask the committee to consider recommending an audit or amending this report," McBroom wrote.

Michigan Senate Republicans have proposed a 39-bill package to overhaul the state's election laws. While McBroom said he has confidence in the state's results, he said the Legislature "has a duty to make statutory improvements to our elections system."

(c)2021 The Detroit News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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