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Michigan Supreme Court ends suit over 2020 election results in Antrim County

DePerno
Matthew DePerno, who lost a bid last month for attorney general, has spent two years litigating election results in Antrim County in northwest Michigan.
  • High court rejects request for ‘full forensic audit’ of 2020 election
  • The case had fueled pro-Trump conspiracy theories
  • Antrim County clerk says ‘we’re just delighted’ because ‘it’ been a long two years’

LANSING — The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday rejected attorney Matthew DePerno's lawsuit over the 2020 presidential election in Antrim County, likely ending a two-year legal saga that spurred global conspiracy theories about voting machines used across the country. 

DePerno, a loyalist of former President Donald Trump who last month lost a bid to become attorney general, had claimed fraud in Antrim County, where a programming error by the local clerk led to initially skewed but unofficial results that incorrectly shown Democrat Joe Biden beating then-President Donald Trump in the conservative region.

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While those unofficial results were corrected, and Trump's win there was affirmed by a full hand recount, DePerno argued that the local activist who he represented was entitled to a "full forensic audit" of his choosing, including a review of all voting equipment and absentee ballot signatures. 

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Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, who left the Republican Party after intense criticism from members about her election management, called the Michigan Supreme Court decision "a relief" but noted DePerno still could file a motion for reconsideration within 21 days.

"We're just delighted, and we hope that we don't have to go back into court," she said. "It's been a long two years."

Even so, Guy said she does not think dismissal of the lawsuit will end conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.  

"I don't think that will ever happen," she told Bridge Michigan. "There's so much controversy and hate and discontent out there."

In declining to hear DePerno's final appeal, Justice David Viviano said he believes the high court should eventually weigh in on the scope of a 2018 constitutional amendment, which guarantees every voter the right to have the results of a statewide election audited "in such a manner prescribed by law." 

Whatever that language means, "it surely cannot be that each qualified elector can undertake his or her own separate audit of an election," wrote Viviano, a Republican nominee. "The present case therefore does not offer an opportunity to add any clarity on this important topic."

DePerno did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Bridge Michigan. The Kalamazoo-area Republican lost his bid against Attorney General Dana Nessel and is now running for chair of the Michigan Republican Party. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said the decision affirmed that “the 2020 election was fair, secure and accurate and suggestions to the contrary are misguided, and meritless attempts to undermine the integrity of elections and harm American democracy.”

DePerno filed the lawsuit in late 2020 and persuaded a circuit court judge to examine voting equipment at Antrim County Clerk's office on Dec. 6, 2020.

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Local officials say DePerno was joined by Katherine Friess, who was working under Rudy Giuliani as a personal attorney for Trump. Also present were lawyers with SullivanStrickler, a firm hired by former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, and at least two members of a self-described “forensic” examination team, according to a sign-in log.  

Their resulting report, which concluded the voting tabulators were "intentionally and purposefully designed" to "create systemic fraud,” was panned by state officials and independent experts

But it quickly made its way to Trump, whose legal team included it as justification for a draft order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines nationwide. 

Trump later endorsed DePerno, who lost by 9 percentage points to Nessel.

A special prosecutor is investigating DePerno and others for alleged illegal tabulator tampering in other parts of the state, including Roscommon County, Richfield Township, Lake Township and Irving Township.

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