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Michigan Republicans eviscerate Trump voter fraud claims in scathing report

The report blasts "lies" and "outright deception" that formed the basis of many claims of election malfeasance in the state.
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In a highly anticipated report released Wednesday, the Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee rebutted former President Donald Trump's voter fraud claims, debunking allegations of malfeasance in the state's election last fall and affirming that Joe Biden was victorious.

The report is the product of an eight-month inquiry and concludes there was no basis or evidence to support the Trump campaign's repeated claims that the election results failed to reflect the will of the voters.

"As is often the case, the truth is not as attractive or as immediately desirable as the lies and the lies contain elements of truth," state Sen. Ed McBroom, the Republican chairman of the committee that investigated the election, said in a statement that accompanied the report. "We must all remember: 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof' and 'claiming to find something extraordinary requires first eliminating the ordinary.'"

The report, which was supported by every Republican on the committee, was clear: "This Committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election."

Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, a 3 percentage-point victory over Trump. The election results had already been affirmed by court rulings, state canvassers and earlier audits completed by the Michigan secretary of state.

McBroom said he feels confident the state's results were accurate following his review, though he has continued to offer support for Republican-led voting law changes. McBroom said many of the claims of malfeasance were the result of "a misunderstanding or an outright deception."

"Also, sources must lose credibility when it is shown they promote falsehoods, even more when they never take accountability for those falsehoods," he said. "At this point, I feel confident to assert the results of the Michigan election are accurately represented by the certified and audited results."

The report singled out the false claims of fraud in Antrim County, a small county in the northern part of the state where human error by election officials initially led to results showing Biden winning the county. The error was quickly corrected, and the certified results showed a substantial Trump victory there. But the rectified error has fueled false claims of fraud in the state.

"The Committee recommends the attorney general consider investigating those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends," the report said, adding, "The many hours of testimony before the Committee showed these claims are unjustified and unfair to the people of Antrim County and the state of Michigan."

In his statement, McBroom said, "All compelling theories that sprang forth from the rumors surrounding Antrim County are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further."

Trump's backers have alleged that the election technology used by elections officials there may have changed votes or otherwise incorrectly processed the results. Those claims have contributed to a push from some on the far right to conduct an Arizona-style partisan ballot review in the state.

"Most of the rigorous debate over additional audits comes from fears surrounding the technology used and its vulnerabilities as allegedly demonstrated in Antrim County," McBroom said. "Without any evidence to validate those fears, another audit, a so-called forensic audit, is not justifiable."

"Michigan’s already completed post-election audit and risk-limiting audit are also far more substantive than Arizona’s standard audit," he added. "However, I am keeping a close eye on the legislatively-initiated forensic audit in Arizona and will continue to ask questions regarding other election issues I feel are not settled."

The report examined, point by point, other theories of election fraud promoted by Trump and his supporters, including votes by dead people. The report said such claims were researched and the committee "concluded that most were false."

"There were two claims of deceased individuals casting votes that were found to be true; one was a clerical error while the other was a timing issue," the report said. "The Committee concluded that none of these constituted fraudulent election activities or manipulations."

The committee also found no evidence "indicating that hundreds of thousands of absentee voter ballots were mailed to Michigan voters without previously being requested," though it recommended that the secretary of state discontinue mailing out unsolicited ballot applications.

The report also addressed claims of late-night "ballot dumps" in Detroit. The basis of one claim was a video that actually showed a local news photographer hauling equipment, not ballots. A second video, the committee said, depicted the unloading of absentee ballots from a van around 3:30 a.m. after Election Day, but there was no evidence the ballots were fraudulent.

Had ballots been fraudulently counted that were not cast by authentic voters, there would have been evidence of irregular turnout. But the inquiry found turnout was not irregular in any way.

Additionally, the report stated "the data suggests that there was no anomalous number of votes cast solely for the President, either in Wayne County or statewide."

Trump has frequently pointed to the rate that votes were counted as evidence of fraud, saying that more ballots appeared late at night. But the report added that large spikes in the vote count, such as those that took place hours after polls closed, "are not necessarily unexplainable or unusual."

"They do not alone constitute evidence of fraud and can be reasonably expected," the report said. "Large precincts, particularly with the highest absentee voter turnout ever, took much longer to complete and then reported all their results at once."

The report stated that demands to decertify the vote over claims regarding the "chain of custody" of ballots and related materials are "incredibly misleading, demeaning, and irresponsible."

Democrats offered mixed reaction to the report.

State Sen. Jeff Irwin, the committee's lone Democrat, voted against adopting it because it endorses Republican-sponsored voting legislation introduced in the state, the Detroit Free Press reported.

In a statement, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said the report confirms what "the majority of Michiganders already know to be true: our 2020 election was secure and the results are accurate."

"The report is only noteworthy because it affirms this truth and comes from a committee chaired by a Republican legislator, but the fact that this is the case, that so few legislators have definitively stated the truth about the 2020 election, says less about the report than it does the travesty and peril of our current democracy," she said.

Benson said the report includes "some strong recommendations" for future elections, including increased time for pre-processing absentee ballots and post-election canvassing, but added, "it also contains inaccuracies that further misinformation and will likely be used to press for partisan and nefarious election audits and legislation that needlessly harms election administration and restricts voting rights."

"My hope is that lawmakers and leaders change course and use the report as rationale to do what they should have done long ago: affirm the security and integrity of our elections, cease their attempts to deceive citizens with misinformation, and abandon legislation based on the lies that undermine our democracy," she said.

In a statement Thursday, Trump attacked the report, targeting McBrook and state Sen. Mike Shirkey, the Republican leader. Trump included their office phone numbers at the end of the statement, pressing supporters to "call those two senators now and get them to do the right thing, or vote them the hell out of office!"

"The Senate 'investigation' is a cover up, and a method of getting out of a forensic audit for the examination of the presidential contest," Trump wrote.

Voter fraud in U.S. elections is exceedingly rare. Soon after last fall's election, Trump's then-top cybersecurity official said it was "the most secure in American history," while then-Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread malfeasance.

Last month, Trump targeted Michigan Senate Republicans for not doing enough to substantiate his baseless fraud claims.

"Has the Michigan State Senate started their review of the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 yet, or are they about to start?" he said. "If not, they should be run out of office."

Last week, a small group of pro-Trump activists gathered outside the Michigan Capitol to demand an Arizona-style ballot review. At that rally, supporters blessed boxes containing affidavits and prayed for elected officials to see the fraud they believe happened. This week, the Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners advanced a request to the state Bureau of Elections to audit their 2020 election results.

That comes amid a backdrop of other pro-Trump activists and lawmakers pushing for ballot reviews similar to Arizona's and visiting the site of that audit in Maricopa County.