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Ballot measure to decertify Michigan 2020 election decried as ‘silly’

trump
Another ballot measure is circulating in Michigan. This one would nullify the 2020 election results and declare former President Donald Trump the winner. (Maxim Elramsisy / Shutterstock.com)

LANSING — A group of conservative activists is touring the state this week, pushing a ballot initiative to “decertify” the 2020 presidential election in Michigan and declare former President Donald Trump as winner.

Former Republican lawmakers and experts say the measure — based on unverified claims the election was stolen in Michigan — is unconstitutional and wouldn’t change the election outcome even if it somehow passed.

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“It would not be enforceable. It would not be possible. It would have zero effect,” David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research and co-chair of Michigan’s Election Security Commission.

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“The question is what fantasy world does this petition live in?” he added. “They would be just as successful circulating a petition saying the gravity should be turned off in Michigan.”

The petition group, Decertify Michigan, wants to declare Trump as the winner of the 2020 election, nullify Michigan’s 2020 presidential election results and replace the slate of electors sent to certify the election with their Republican counterparts. 

The petition would also require the state Legislature to appoint an “independent counsel” to investigate the election and mandate state and local election officials submit reports on the 2020 election records to the Legislature.

In the November 2020 election, Democratic President Joe Biden received 2.8 million votes in Michigan, defeating Trump by less than 200,000 votes, election results show.

More than 250 local audits of the 2020 election, conducted by election officials of both major parties in Michigan, found no evidence of massive voter fraud that would have changed the outcome. A report from the nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General, as well as an investigation by the Republican-led Senate Oversight Committee, reached the same conclusion.

Even if ballot measure organizers somehow were successful and nullified Michigan results, Biden would still be president: He won 306 Electoral College votes to 232 for Trump, so switching Michigan’s 16 votes wouldn’t change the outcome.

But just the circulation of the petition undermines people’s confidence in legitimate elections, said Ken Sikkema, a former Republican majority leader in the Michigan Senate. (Disclosure: The Center for Michigan, Bridge’s nonprofit parent, is a fiduciary of Sikkema’s policy project, but it does not have any financial relationship to him.)

“Just because you keep repeating a lie doesn’t make it a truth,” Sikkema said. “Does it instill a doubt in people’s minds … about the legitimacy of election results? Maybe it does. That’s certainly a problem.”

“It’s a silly proposal that will never take effect,” Sikkema added.

Becker said the petition drive is part of a “long con” that ultimately victimizes Trump’s hardcore supporters.

“This is being done to raise money off of those people and their sincere disappointment, and keep them angry and it’s really unfortunate to see allies of the former president target his supporters for this grift,” he said.

While the petition drive has no chance of success, Beckers said he worries it could deter people from becoming elected officials or voting. 

The petition group needs to collect 340,047 valid signatures by June 1 to present the ballot initiative to the state Legislature, which by law could adopt it within 40 days. If lawmakers do not do so, the measure would go to voters in November.

The offices of Michigan House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, did not return a Bridge inquiry on their positions on the ballot measure.

Robert Gelt, founder of the petition group, told Bridge Michigan that conservative advocacy group Stand Up Michigan has been collecting signatures for the initiative, but did not say how many had been collected. The petition has been circulated at several Republican events, including a Trump rally this month and a Secretary of State candidate forum in Livingston County.

According to the petition, the group receives funding from The Committee to Revive Michigan Elections, a limited liability company formed in March.

At a Thursday meeting in Lansing hosted by Decertify Michigan, Gelt told a handful of attendees there was proof the election was stolen. 

Gelt was joined by RJ Regan, a Grand Rapids Republican candidate for state House who pushed false election fraud claims, and Seth Keshel, a former Army veteran working in intelligence who claimed his statistical analysis proved fraud in various states.

When asked by Bridge why he believed the election must be investigated, Keshel pointed to the spike in Democratic voters in the 2020 presidential election. 

In 2020, Trump gained almost 400,000 votes in Michigan compared to the 2.3 million votes he had in the 2016 presidential election. In comparison, Biden won 2.8 million votes in Michigan — 500,000 more than what former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had in 2016.  

Keshel said the growth was “logically” impossible. But when asked if he believed the numbers show massive voter fraud that skewed the election results, Keshel acknowledged the statistics alone “are not outright proof of election fraud.”

“To me, statistics point to the need to investigate what is obviously not normal,” he told Bridge. He added he is skeptical of audit results of the election or “anything that government says.”

Many experts have attributed the increase in votes in the prevalence of absentee voting during the pandemic, as well as interest in the race between Trump and Biden. Nationwide, turnout was nearly two-thirds of eligible voters, more than 7 percentage points higher than 2016.

Becker also noted Biden defeated Trump in 2020 by more than 154,000 votes — 15 times the margin by which Clinton lost to Trump in 2016. Clinton lost to Trump by 10,704 votes, state records show.

“(Trump supporters) didn’t have much of a problem in that election (in 2016) even though the margin was much smaller,” Becker said.

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Gelt told Bridge on Thursday he discovered “tens of thousands of votes that did not count” in the 2020 election by setting up a website and accepting submissions from internet users. On his website, anyone can type in their name, date of birth and ZIP Code to “report the error” with their voting records. 

But Gelt acknowledged the setup has no way of verifying if those who submitted information told the truth.

“Of course there’s going to be crazy people getting involved, but we have a whole affidavit process where people are swearing under oath,” he said, contending the affidavit would be admissible in court.

Similar claims have been debunked repeatedly. The Senate Oversight Committee report last year concluded there was no proof of dead voters, “fractional voting,” fraudulent “ballot dump” in Detroit or any precinct having more than 100-percent voter turnout.

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