One week after the election, Michigan remains a battleground state.
Now, it’s a key part of a long-shot attempt by President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, with a Wayne County judge set to rule Friday on one request to halt the certification of ballots in the predominantly Democratic county.
The decision is one of several facing judges in state and federal courts in select states nationwide. Five suits seek to upend Biden’s 147,000-vote win in Michigan, the largest among the states whose results are now being contested.
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One new federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in west Michigan on behalf of four Michigan voters, contains no original allegation and rehashes other lawsuits as well as tweets and blog posts. It seeks to eliminate all of the votes in Wayne, Washtenaw and Ingham counties.
That would mean invalidating over 1.2 million votes from the election — or over 20 percent of the record 5.5 million votes cast in Michigan. It would also mean Trump, rather than losing by 147,000 votes, would win by over 322,000 votes.
He won the state in 2016 with 10,704 more votes than Hillary Cliton.
Invalidating an entire county’s votes, let alone three, has probably never been done, said Aghogho Edevbie, director of the Michigan chapter of All Voting is Local, a national voting-rights advocacy group.
“I’ve never ever heard of a situation where ballots are thrown out as a remedy. Ever,” he said. “The reason is it would disenfranchise so many people. That’s why it’s never been done.”
The suit claims that votes statewide were “diluted” because absentee ballots were allegedly illegally counted in Detroit.
Jim Bopp, an Indiana attorney who filed the lawsuit, declined to spell out why Washtenaw or Ingham are targeted in the suit.
It’s “in the complaint,” Bopp wrote in a short email to Bridge Michigan. He’s part of True the Vote, a Texas-based group that describes itself as a voters rights organization.
But it’s not clear at all why Ingham is; there is no claim of any problem there. As to Washtenaw, the lawsuit’s only claim is that the county, like Wayne, has more registered voters than people old enough to vote.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Barb Byrum, a Democrat and clerk of Ingham County. “This is not one of [Trump’s] Miss Universe pageants where he gets to decide who wins. Because in Michigan every vote counts.”
Many counties in Michigan have more registered voters than people old enough to vote, including Republican ones such as Otsego and Kalkaska, both of whose voting rolls have 15 percent more “voters” than residents of voting age.
That could be the result of several factors, including outdated census data and voter files that haven’t been updated when residents die. Federal law mandates a delay before some voter registrations are canceled, and delays have never been “credibly linked to illegal voting on any substantial scale,” a Michigan state spokesperson told Bridge Michigan in July.
Already, judges across the state have knocked down two lawsuits. Wayne County Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny denied one request to stall the certification, and a Michigan Court of Claims judge rejected an earlier request to halt the count because the suit was based on hearsay evidence and was unlikely to prevail.
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The lawsuits have covered so many similar allegations that David Fink, an attorney for the City of Detroit, joked this week that “this is starting to seem like ‘Groundhog Day,’ but unlike ‘Groundhog Day,’ this isn’t funny at all.”
The suits claim Republican poll challengers were not allowed to get close enough to see the counting process and that some were removed from the TCF Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were processed. Others claimed that ballots were wrongly duplicated or different names were put into computer records than were on the ballot envelope.
One lawsuit even alleged a dead man voted; but it turns out the deceased was removed from the voter rolls years ago and has not, in fact, voted.
And Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims was exasperated when an attorney failed to acknowledge that one of the complaints was based on second-hand information known as hearsay.
She rejected the case.
Chris Thomas, the retired director of elections for Secretary of State, worked with Detroit during the election and has filed an affidavit saying most of the accusations reflect a lack of knowledge with how elections work.
But Ruth Johnson, a former secretary of state who is now a Republican state senator, filed an affidavit saying accusations are “very concerning” to her and “require court intervention.”
“Based upon my review of these documents, I believe that it would be proper for an independent audit to be conducted as soon as possible to ensure the accuracy and integrity of this election,” she wrote.
Last week, however, she told Bridge that despite the problems, and her knowledge of Detroit’s past problems with elections, they wouldn’t produce a change in votes that would undo Biden’s victory.
“I think it would be an awful tall mountain to climb,” she said.
On Friday, Kenny will decide whether the plaintiffs can at least start climbing that mountain.
At noon, the judge is expected to issue an opinion on whether to allow a case to proceed that seeks to delay the certification of Wayne County’s election results.