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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Why 19 Michigan Republicans backed Trump bid to overturn vote: ‘We want answers’

LANSING — Republicans who backed President Donald Trump’s failed effort for another term insisted they just wanted “answers” — even though they signed a brief seeking to overturn Michigan’s election.

Fifteen Michigan legislators and four of six of the state’s congressional Republicans filed legal briefs supporting a Texas lawsuit that sought to delay Monday’s Electoral College vote and block electors from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia from participating. 

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the request Friday, after Bridge Michigan reached out to the lawmakers to understand their rationale for supporting a lawsuit that critics said supported “authoritarian, anti-democracy efforts” to satisfy Trump’s “tiny fragile ego.”

By and large, Republicans who signed onto the lawsuit either didn’t return calls or said they sought to protect the integrity of the election, even though no court found any evidence of fraud in the election Democratic presidential Joe Biden won in Michigan by 154,000 votes.

Republicans like state Rep. Gary Eisen said they signed the brief to give legislative committees more time to investigate the Michigan election.

Speaking hours before the decision, Eisen said that if the lawmakers’ probe revealed ”that this is just one big mess,” then voters should “trust” the GOP-led Legislature to pick their own electors, said Eisen, of St. Clair Township.

He told Bridge Michigan he doesn’t have a responsibility to honor the popular vote, saying “if it’s wrong” it would be “like me agreeing with a crime.”

“There's just too many unanswered things going on,” he said. “That causes confusion. To put this whole thing to rest we just have to pursue every avenue we can to get the right answers. If it comes out one way, I'll accept it. If it comes out the other way, I'll still accept it.”

 

State Rep. Michelle Hoitenga, R-Manton, offered a similar explanation to Bridge. 

“I'm not out to overturn the election,” state Rep. Michelle Hoitenga, R-Manton, said after signing a legal brief that would allow the Legislature to do just that.

“I just want to pause for a moment and have time to make sure that everybody's concerns are addressed.”

The suit claimed election officials in Michigan and other states “gutted the safeguards for absentee ballots through non-legislative actions” during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it repeats dubious allegations GOP poll challengers were denied legal access to Detroit’s absentee counting board.

Many of those claims have been rejected by Michigan courts, which have deemed Republican witnesses “not credible” and found Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson acted lawfully when she mailed out absentee ballot applications to voters across the state. 

“Our election has been certified," Michigan Attorney General Nessel, a Democrat,  said Thursday on CNN. "It’s been upheld by every court in which it’s been challenged. And in fact, Texas has failed to identify a single voter who voted in Michigan who should not have, let alone any evidence of widespread voter fraud."

The brief signed by GOP state legislators repeats false claims about the TCF Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted. The brief wrongly alleges the city "backdated" late-arriving ballots, which election officials say was a procedural step to remedy minor clerical errors made at satellite offices before Election Day.

Texas also makes a wild claim that all 174,000 absentee ballots counted in Detroit were not "tied to a registered voter" so should not count. In reality, Detroit counted about 150 fewer absentee ballots than listed voters, an undercount, not an overcount that would suggest illegal votes.

Notably, Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake did not join the legal challenge. 

Nor did state Rep. Matt Hall of Marshall and Sen. Ed McBroom of Vulcan, Republicans who are leading the ongoing legislative inquiry into the election, which Hall said could take “months” to complete and aims to inform policy discussions. 

Chatfield’s “position has not changed,” said spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro. “The Michigan Legislature will follow the law, and Michigan’s electors will go to the candidate who received the most votes.”

Bridge Michigan on Friday reached out to all 19 Michigan Republicans in Congress and the state Legislature who signed onto legal briefs to ask why they disagree. Only a handful answered or returned calls, some issued statements and others did not respond. 

Congress

All told, 106 members of the 435-member U.S. House signed onto a brief backing the Texas challenge. U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, were not among them, and both have urged the president to accept defeat. But four Republican colleagues disagreed.

Jack Bergman of Watersmeet: “Every American needs to know that every legal vote is counted – and only legal votes,” he said in a statement. “This can only be achieved if those administering our elections are held to the highest standard. As with many elections in the past, our case deserves to be heard by the Supreme Court, and Michiganders deserve to know their concerns are being addressed."

Bill Huizenga of Zeeland: In a Facebook video on Thursday, Huizenga said the Supreme Court suit is the “right thing to do for America” and for voters who have questions about election integrity. “I will remind folks that Al Gore did not concede the 2000 election until December 15 after he lost twice. . . at the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “So this is proper for the president to be going through this.” 

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton: “It has become increasingly clear that there are still remaining concerns about the integrity of our election system,” he said in a statement. “To help address these constitutional issues, the Supreme Court should weigh in. My constituents are looking for answers, and this amicus brief calling for the Court’s review is one more opportunity to bring greater transparency to the process.”

No response: John Moolenaar of Midland

Michigan House

No members of the Michigan Senate signed onto a brief backing Trump, nor did 43 Republican House members.

The 15 members of the state House who did come from solidly Republican districts, with all but one winning re-election with 60 percent of the vote or more last month. (Greg Markkanen won with 57.6 percent)

Gary Eisen of St. Clair Township: Eisen said he signed the brief because constituents in his “heavily conservative” district have been “hammering” him with questions about the election and suggesting they can’t trust the voting system anymore. 

Eisen told Bridge he will “accept whatever the outcome is” but wants more time for the legislative investigation into the election. 

Eisen, a welder by trade, said he is not trying to boost his own political career by backing the president’s push to overturn Michigan’s certified election results. But he suggested some Republicans colleagues did not join the brief because of their own political considerations. 

“It’s all politics,” he said. “They’re in tight races, and when you’re in a tight race, you have a tendency to not make waves.”

That’s not a problem for Eisen, who won re-election last month with 69 percent of the vote. “So I would think they would appreciate me stepping up and trying to get some answers,” he said of his constituents. 

He said he hopes the House Oversight Committee that is probing Michigan’s election will definitely prove whether there was significant fraud in the election. 

“If they feel we have to go another route [and appoint Trump electors,] then possibly we have to do that,” he said. “I'm not going to make a call until we get more information. What if we find out after the fact it was a big farce? Then we even look worse.”

Julie Alexander of Hanover: “The general election is still clearly in dispute,” Alexander said in a statement. “State legislatures have plenary power to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the elections under the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions, so it is our duty to conduct further investigations. The people expect this, and the people deserve this. Protecting the rights of Michigan citizens and the integrity of our elections is what they sent me to Lansing to do.”

Beth Griffin of Mattawan: “I am honored to be a part of this group that is committed to fighting for election integrity and agrees that Michigan’s election laws were not followed,” Griffin wrote on Facebook. “We are gravely concerned by the numerous reports of illegal activities and the deviation from the election’s clear processes. Moving forward, I will continue to follow both the state and US constitution which I swore to protect.”

Matt Maddock of Milford: “We have a responsibility to investigate credible accusations of voter fraud,” Maddock wrote on Facebook. “Your Michigan Legislature cannot sit by while so many affidavits are filed, and witnesses come forward. We cannot be silent when faced with the courage of so many whistleblowers. We are going to investigate the allegations of fraud, and I am committed to making all our findings public.”

Michelle Hoitenga of Manton: Hoitenga said she wants "to pause for a moment and have time to make sure that everybody's concerns are addressed."

But she acknowledged the Legislature does not have much time to complete its ongoing election investigation.The House canceled session this week due to COVID-19 concerns, including recent testimony from Rudy Giuliani, and the Legislature is set to meet for the last time of the year next week. 

"Under these unusual circumstances with COVID, I think it's going to be very, very difficult to get to the bottom of all the questions people have," Hoitenga said.  "The Supreme Court needs to make a decision immediately. We just can't prolong this election."

Asked if Trump is the one causing confusion over the Michigan election, Hoitenga said she’s just trying to sort fact from fiction. 

"For me this has nothing to do with President Trump or President-elect Biden or the fraud accusations," said Hoitenga. 

“For me, this has to do with the Secretary of State bypassing the Legislature” to send unsolicited absentee ballot applications.” 

Not response: Brad Paquette of Niles; Rodney Wakeman of Saginaw Township; Greg Markkanen of Hancock; Jack O'Malley of Lake Ann; Joe Bellino of Monroe; Bronna Kahle of Adrian;  Luke Meerman of Coopersville; John Reilly of Oakland Township; Daire Rendon of Lake City; Doug Wozniak of Shelby Township

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