Michigan county that backed Trump calls for 2020 election review

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Correction: Cheboygan County Commissioner Ron Williams voted against the audit on Tuesday. An earlier version of this story indicated otherwise.

Cheboygan – The council of commissioners for a northern Michigan county that backed Donald Trump voted on Tuesday to continue an audit of his election, underlining lingering tension among Republicans over the loss of the former president.

Almost eight months after polling day, the GOP-controlled Cheboygan County Council of Commissioners voted 4 to 3 to send a letter to Jonathan Brater, the state’s chief electoral officer, requesting a recount of his ballots and a test to see if an “unauthorized computer” tampered with the counts.

The county of 25,000 sits atop the Lower Peninsula, and 64% of its voters backed Trump, the incumbent Republican candidate, in November. Only 34% backed Democrat Joe Biden. But for months, Cheboygan County officials debated the idea of ​​reviewing the election results amid a nationwide push among some GOP members to question the result and investigate unsubstantiated theories of electoral fraud.

At an April meeting of the county board’s elections subcommittee, Stefanie Lambert Junttila, a lawyer involved in unsuccessful lawsuits to overturn the elections, offered to send a team to Cheboygan County to perform a so-called “forensic analysis”.

Months of discussions culminated in Tuesday’s meeting, which drew around 90 people. Many members of the public who spoke supported the letter while others opposed it.

Rob Ross of Cheboygan said the push for a recount has come from “people who want to lower our votes”.

“It’s a waste of time and I’m ashamed,” Ross said. “The machines were tested and each time the numbers matched the totals. This plot is ridiculous.”

Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points. A series of court rulings, bipartisan canvassing commissions and dozens of audits by election officials reinforced the result.

Yet voting theories have persisted in Michigan and other battlefield states. The Cheboygan County letter from John Wallace, chairman of the county board of directors, said the county would hire “an accredited election auditor” if the state approves an audit.

“As commissioners, we have heard many of our constituents voice their concerns / questions regarding the November 3, 2020 election,” according to a copy of the letter posted on the county’s website. “We believe we have a responsibility to address these concerns / questions.”

It’s unclear how Brater, who works for Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, will handle Cheboygan County’s request. On Tuesday, Benson spokeswoman Tracy Wimmer said the state would review the letter once it is received and “respond directly to the commission.”

In May, Brater sent a letter to the county, saying the council itself cannot require local election officials to give access to their voting equipment for an audit.

“Michigan Election Law gives clerks the choice and maintenance of their voting systems and gives no authority to county commissions to take control of this equipment,” Brater wrote.

Rob Burnell addresses the Cheboygan Board of Commissioners at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. The board voted 4-3 to send a letter to the Michigan Election Officer requesting an audit of the presidential election results from 2020.

Tuesday’s vote in Cheboygan County came on the same day State Representative Steve Carra presented a proposal to require a statewide audit of the Michigan House election. Last week, hundreds of Trump supporters gathered in Lansing to ask the state legislature to continue an audit, similar to what is happening in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Beth Bridgman of Cheboygan has been the most vocal of Cheboygan County residents to push for a so-called “forensic audit” of the 2020 results. In an interview, she expressed her opposition to the letter from the county commissioners , saying she hoped for a more in-depth look at the software and equipment used in the election.

“Nobody is looking at whether the machines are hacked or not in real time,” said Bridgman.

The campaign for another review of the November vote puts Michigan Republican officials in a difficult position between party members who want to pass the 2022 election and party members who want to continue to question what happened. in 2020.

Commissioner Ron Williams said he voted against sending the letter because “the overwhelming majority” who spoke to him about the audit did not support it.

In an interview with Detroit’s WDIV-TV on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said there was no doubt in his mind that Biden won the state.

Benson has previously said the efforts at another audit are attempts to perpetuate the “big lie” that Trump actually won the presidential race.

“Those who sincerely want credible audits of our elections should remember that Michigan election officials – including 1,300 local Republican, Democratic and non-partisan clerks – conducted more than 250 real and transparent audits of the November 2020 election,” he said. Benson said. said last week. “And each has confirmed that it is safe and secure, and the results faithfully reflect the will of the people.”

County clerks have previously performed procedural audits in randomly selected constituencies across the state. The examinations included a manual count of all votes cast within the race grounds for the US Senate. The Michigan Bureau of Elections and local election officials also reviewed absentee count tables in four major municipalities, including Detroit and Grand Rapids, and conducted a risk-limiting audit exercise.

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