Trump backers inch closer to ballot measure to overhaul Michigan vote audits
LANSING — A group of election skeptics is one step closer to radically changing the process of performing post-vote audits in Michigan, by shifting oversight from state officials to a new political board
On Wednesday, the Michigan Board of Canvassers approved the 100-word summary of a ballot petition by Audit MI, a group that also seeks a so-called “forensic audit” of the 2020 election in Michigan.
The Michigan Secretary of State and county clerks now conduct audits when necessary, but the petition would transfer their authority to a board of 20 Democrats and Republicans appointed by the Michigan House.
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The petition also would create a 13-member grand jury that could assist in post-election audits by issuing subpoenas — as well as arrest warrants should they become necessary to complete the procedure.
“We need to be transparent in our election process, regardless of whether it is a Republican Secretary State or a Democratic Secretary of State,” organizer Jon Rocha, a Republican state House candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, told canvassers Wednesday.
Supporters like Rocha say the measure is an effort to ensure accuracy and audits would only follow if problems arise. Opponents say it’s the latest in a long line of failed efforts by Trump supporters to challenge the 2020 contest and undermine the legitimacy of elections.
“There’s nothing scientific about this proposed audit,” Scott Eldridge, an attorney who represents the Michigan Democratic Party, told canvassers.
“This does nothing more than attempt to sow doubts” in the integrity of the elections process, he added.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, carried Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, but Trump supporters have challenged the results even though Republican and Democratic officials have verified them through more than 250 local audits.
Additionally, the Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee investigated the election for months and found no evidence of widespread fraud.
There’s still a long way to go for the Audit MI. Before the petition could go before voters, the Board of Canvassers would need to approve the petition form.
If approved, the group would have to collect 340,047 voter signatures in 180 days to send the petition to the Legislature. Lawmakers would then have the option of either enact it, or include it on the November 2022 ballot.
Tony Daunt, a Republican canvasser, told Bridge Michigan after the meeting he hopes the proposal doesn’t get the signatures needed to make the ballot.
“I don't know if I would consider the proposal garbage, but it is certainly a solution in hunt of a problem,” Daunt said. “And these people have been led astray by the rhetoric of Donald Trump.”
Daunt said the current audit system works and changes aren’t necessary.
The Board of Canvassers also approved Wednesday initial language for a ballot measure seeking to boost the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2027, and a separate one to establish “a new right to reproductive freedom.”
The measure would repeal a 1931 Michigan abortion ban that would take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Private donors could fund audit
According to the petition language, there are eight scenarios that would trigger an audit, including precincts being “out of balance” — the number of ballots in boxes not matching the number of voters who signed in to vote.
That’s a fairly common issue in some small towns and Detroit, where more than 70 percent of absentee precincts were out of balance in August 2020. It’s usually a relatively minor error involving a few ballots and jammed machines.
The proposal also would require audits if there was evidence of foreign or domestic interference in the election, or if election data is altered or destroyed.
Among other controversies, the proposal is attracting criticism because it would require members of the audit board to privately raise money for an audit and not require them to disclose donors.
Rocha, with AuditMI, told reporters the private donations would help the board secure the initial contract with third-party contractors, but that taxpayer money would be used to respond to the contractors’ requests.
When asked why keep the donors private, Rocha answered that in “today’s political climate,” it’s necessary to protect donors who would feel threatened if their identities were revealed.
Aghogho Edevbie, the Michigan state director of All Voting is Local, told canvassers that it would be “unprecedented in Michigan history that a governmental entity would be accepting money and not disclose.”
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