Austin Chenge, the Republican businessman and Army veteran from Grand Rapids who's mounting a campaign against Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2022, says he would cancel the state's contracts with Dominion Voting Systems on "day one."
Dominion Voting Systems make the voting machines that are at the center of a debunked conspiracy theory alleging widespread election fraud, either because of computer glitches or something more sinister. One of the most prevalent claims alleges a computer glitch in Antrim County, Michigan, that flipped thousands of votes for Donald Trump to Joe Biden. While a tabulation error did occur in Antrim County, the problem was the result of human error, and the mistake was quickly caught and corrected. Trump wound up winning in the county with 9,748 votes while Biden won 5,960, according to the certified results.
The conspiracy theory has been repeated by Trump, his lawyers, and witnesses in the weeks following the election, and Dominion has countered with defamation lawsuits, including a $1.3 billion suit against Trump's lawyer and former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani. Melissa Carone, Giuliani's "star witness" from Michigan, has also been sent a cease-and-desist letter from Dominion, and the conservative website American Thinker apologized for publishing false claims about Dominion after being served a letter by its lawyers, admitting "These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact."
Nevertheless, fueled by Trump's insistence on repeating the conspiracy theory, thousands of his supporters marched on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in a bloody clash that left at least five dead.
Despite the recent lawsuits, Chenge says on Monday that he would cancel the state's contracts with Dominion if elected Governor.
"The most important reason for cancelling this contract is to restore voter confidence in our elections," Chenge tells Metro Times via email.
Chenge says he met with "hundreds" of voters in recent travels across the state. According to Chenge, two out of three Republicans, one-to-two out of three Democrats, and a "breath-taking" three out of three Independents "expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the voting systems and election process regardless of the outcome, with about 2 out of 3 in every category expressing an unwillingness to take part in future elections."
"This would be disastrous for our democracy," Chenge says. "Cancelling Dominion's contract is a small price to pay to restore voter confidence in our elections."
According to Chenge, who says he reviewed Dominion's contract with the state, it could be canceled "on my first day as Governor."
Chenge also says he would strengthen voter ID requirements.
"In present times, the argument that the requirement for Voter ID would disenfranchise a vast number of voters is no longer tenable or credible," he says. "For instance, anyone from any background is able to obtain a State ID for $10 and if they can't afford it, a form is provided and they get it for free. As Governor, I will extend this to Voter ID and ensure every Michigan voter has a Voter ID."
OK. But this all asks the question — if so many voters distrust Michigan's election system, why would they even bother to vote for Chenge in 2022?
We asked the Chenge campaign in a follow-up email.
"American voters have shown a willingness to turn out and vote for a candidate who will bring about unprecedented change, which is what Austin is doing," a campaign spokesperson says.
Got it. So the Chenge campaign message is this: if you don't trust elections, vote for Chenge.