GOP-led Senate Oversight panel debunks 2020 voter fraud conspiracies in new report

click to enlarge Trump supporters at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Detroit. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Trump supporters at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Detroit.

After nearly eight months of GOP state lawmakers questioning the 2020 presidential election results, the Senate Oversight Committee this week released a 35-page report concluding that there is no widespread evidence of voter fraud, despite continued right-wing claims to the contrary.

Since November, many Republican activists and lawmakers have largely refrained from crediting President Joe Biden with victory over former President Donald Trump. Although Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, Trump and his allies spread misinformation and conspiracy theories about alleged widespread election fraud in Michigan and other key states.

On Nov. 7 — shortly after the Associated Press and other media called the election for Biden — the House and Senate Oversight committees launched their investigation into the election as pro-Trump activists rallied at Michigan’s Capitol. In the coming months, the Senate panel heard committee testimony from nearly 90 individuals — a number of whom espoused conspiracy theories.

Committee Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) prepared the report released Wednesday. McBroom said that through hundreds of hours of investigation and “countless reviews” of allegations and concerns, he and his colleagues “found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.”

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” the report reads. “The committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”

The report did not find evidence of dead people voting, something alleged without evidence by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), or a “ballot dump” in the heavily Democratic, majority Black city of Detroit.

McBroom also noted that a so-called “forensic audit” of Antrim County — which initially reported a Biden win, which was quickly corrected — is unnecessary, as the widespread conspiracy theories surrounding the northern Michigan county’s election results “are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further.”

Judge Kevin Elsenheimer, a former GOP lawmaker, last month tossed a lawsuit from Trump supporters challenging the election results in Antrim County.

The report urges Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, to investigate “those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”

Despite the Senate panel report and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tweeting Thursday that a forensic audit “is not a thing,” state Rep. Steve Carra (R-St. Joseph) introduced a bill Tuesday calling for an audit statewide. Republicans have pushed for this in other key states after GOP lawmakers in Arizona initiated an audit.

Senate Oversight Committee Minority Chair Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), the lone Democrat on the four-member panel, thanked McBroom and the other Republicans for the report. But he noted that for months, he felt the committee was “going down a dangerous path, that we were giving a platform to people who were peddling dangerous, obviously untrue ideas.”

“The committee strongly recommends citizens to use a critical eye and ear towards those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain,” Irwin said.

He added that he hopes the report will be the last of the committee’s investigation into the 2020 election, despite the release being labeled as an “initial” report. Irwin thanked McBroom for diligently investigating the claims and landing on “a very clear rebuke of the claims of election irregularities here in Michigan.”

State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) disagreed with many of Irwin’s points about the need for the investigation, and said she has personally spent about 140 hours herself looking into the claims. Theis said there were enough irregularities to merit the months-long investigation, pointing to the two nearly 40-bill packages in the GOP-controlled state Legislature that would restrict voting and alter many election procedures.

Many of the Republican-backed bills, particularly in the state Senate, have been widely criticized as voter suppression tactics disguised as election reform.

“When we have such a large number of people who are questioning the outcome of the election, I think it becomes very urgent that we do whatever is necessary to restore their faith in our government,” state Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) remarked on the report, adding that he appreciates the report being labeled as “initial” and the committee’s intentions to keep monitoring the situation.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) declined to offer praise for the GOP-led report.

“Finally arriving at a conclusion that the rest of the nation reached on November 7, 2020 will not earn any praise from me. For months, the Republican majority has given extremists a platform and a megaphone to spout unfounded, insidious lies about the election,” Ananich said in a statement.

“They have allowed their values, their words, and their committees to be co-opted by a small group of vocal dissidents who could not — and still cannot — come to grips with the fact that their candidate lost. We can’t turn back the clock now, but I do expect that history will not forget how failing to stand up for the truth created lasting damage in this country,” he continued.

This story was originally published by Michigan Advance. It is republished here with permission.

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