2020 election upheaval continues to strain Michigan County | New

TRAVERSE CITY – A federal magistrate has recommended dismissing a civil action brought against the January 6 Committee by a lobbyist from Washington, D.C., who in November 2020 flew to County Antrim by private jet as part of a team of political operatives researching local election data.

Phone records of Katherine Friess, of Arlington, Virginia, and Vail, Colorado, have already been subpoenaed by the US House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, according to the court records.

Friess, listed in 13th Circuit Court documents as an expert witness in a since-dismissed civil suit accusing County Antrim of voter fraud, sued the select committee, referring to her work as a solicitor for the former President Donald Trump.

The select committee searched for phone records, text messages, private messages and other communications from Friess, sent or received between November 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021, a period that includes dates Friess traveled to County Antrim.

On October 26, Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix recommended that a motion to dismiss filed on July 11 by attorneys representing the select committee be granted, which could clear the way for the committee to access Friess’ phone records.

Judge Mix said she was not convinced the information sought by the select committee could not be used “in the legislative sphere” and recommended dismissal due to lack of jurisdiction in the matter, according to court records.

This latest filing in a Colorado federal court 1,300 miles north of Michigan, has some local officials reflecting on how the repeatedly debunked fraud charges against the rural and extremely conservative county continue to strain strains local resources.

“It all just turned into a lot of extra work, extra staff time and extra money,” County Antrim Registrar Sheryl Guy said on Friday.

Guy said the county has so far spent about $90,000 defending against an election-related lawsuit filed by Central Lake man Bill Bailey and dismissed last year by the 13th Circuit Judge. Short, Kevin Elsenheimer.

On October 20, the County Antrim Board of Commissioners approved the expenditure of $21,250 to purchase a computer and five tabulators from Election Source, a voting equipment company, after the county previously leased the machines for the elections held in 2021 and in May and August this year.

Guy said the county’s previous election equipment is still considered evidence in the dismissed lawsuit because Bailey’s attorney, Matthew DePerno, has sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

DePerno is the Republican-nominated candidate for state attorney general, running against Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel.

“Not knowing if the Supreme Court is going to hear the case, we could have done it for another year,” Guy said of ongoing rental costs.

The county spent $3,000 on voting equipment rental costs for the May and August elections in 2021 and the May elections this year, for a total of $9,000, and spent $10,500 on the August 2, 2022 primary election, Guy said.

County staff say they have also responded to a steady stream of Freedom of Information Act requests from a dizzying array of people seeking election and investigative information.

For example, in March of last year, a resident of Hartland, Michigan requested an audit of “software installations for all devices,” with lists of who installed the software, when it was installed. and contact information for any convenience store the county may seek for advice or assistance.

In late January, a staff reporter for New York-based ProPublica and a correspondent for Frontline, a PBS news program, requested a list of those who visited the county clerk’s office between Nov. 2020 and December 7. 2020 – the Record-Eagle released the list earlier that month.

In March, an attorney for Jackson Walker, LLP, an Austin, Texas law firm, filed a 117-page request seeking contracts, emails, bid proposals, text messages , bills and other communications between the county and Dominion Voting Systems, Inc.

In June, a New Jersey group, Voter Psychology, filed a request to inspect all 2020 general election ballots and the right to photograph the ballots.

Joan Shanahan, who handles records requests for the sheriff’s office, said this has been a particularly busy year and requests to that office could top the roughly 200 it received in 2021.

County Antrim has been the subject of repeated false allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, following errors admitted by Guy and the staff who work in his office. In November 2020, Guy acknowledged that his office had failed to properly update Dominion Voting Systems software to accommodate ballot changes in some precincts ahead of the election.

“It’s so common that a lot of us have gone numb,” Guy said of how those she called “election deniers” sought to use the county to advance their debunked claims.

A report, Exhausting and Dangerous: The Serious Problem of Election Misinformation and Misinformation, released in August by a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, refers to the impact of lies about US elections in Michigan and other states.

“The mounting pressures facing election workers and administrators are compounded by a vicious cycle of misinformation designed to reduce public confidence in our electoral system,” the report said.

Lawyers for the select committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Friess, who also did not respond to a request for comment submitted to his attorney, Raymond A. Mansolillo, of Boston, has 14 days to respond to Judge Mix’s recommendation for dismissal.

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