Michigan Secretary of State (SoS) Jocelyn Benson has repeatedly insisted there is no evidence of election fraud in her state, and she has intensely criticized those who questioned the integrity of Michigan's election results. Her bold assertions make even more remarkable the fact that Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray ruled on Mar. 9 that Benson, a Democrat, broke the law when she unilaterally issued rules related to absentee balloting, hence validated a fundamental claim made by the Trump campaign in its legal challenges to the 2020 election.
Details of Judge Murray's Ruling Against Benson
A month before the Nov. 3 election, Benson instructed local election clerks to start with a "presumption" that all signatures on absentee ballots were valid and only reject those that had "multiple significant and obvious" discrepancies. According to Murray, Benson's instructions created a new set of rules without following the process for creating a formal rule change.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Bob Genetski, the Allegan County Clerk-Register of Deeds, and the Republican Party, sued the Soros-connected Benson in her official capacity and Jonathan Brater, Director of Elections, in his official capacity, alleging she violated Michigan's Administrative Procedures Act when she solely decided the voter ballot signature matching guidelines before the 2020 election.
Describing Benson's actions as a “mandatory directive requiring local election officials to apply a presumption of validity to all signatures on absent voter ballots,” Michigan state Republican Rep. Matt Hall said in a statement:
“I’m glad the court sees Secretary of State Benson’s attempts at lawmaking for what they are—clear violations of her authority. If she wants to make changes like these, she needs to work with the Legislature or properly promulgate them through the laws we have on the books—in this case, the Administrative Procedures Act.”
According to Judge Murray's ruling:
"…nowhere in this state's election law has the Legislature indicated that signatures are to be presumed valid, nor did the Legislature require that signatures are to be accepted so long as there are any redeeming qualities in the application or return envelope as compared with the signature on file. Policy determinations like the one at issue — which places the thumb on the scale in favor of a signature's validity — should be made pursuant to properly promulgated rules under the APA or by the Legislature."
Murray's ruling is significant because, throughout the uncertainty of the 2020 election, Republicans and the Trump campaign maintained that passing signature validation rules without legislative approval violated Article II of the Constitution, which requires state legislatures to make the rules governing presidential elections, and reiterates that courts and state election officials lack the authority to change them. By establishing that SoS Benson violated election laws, Murray discredits the Democratic narrative that the Republican legal challenges are without merit.
Additional Moves by Benson, CTCL, and Other Lawsuits
In another suspect move typically not handled by the secretary of state, Benson (whose husband, former Detroit Chief Development Officer Ryan Friedrichs, resigned last year after directing his staff to delete emails involving a controversial nonprofit) announced last May that Michigan, a crucial presidential battleground, had spent $4.5 million to mail absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million of its registered voters ahead of the August primary and November general election. Benson indicated the action was part of the state's efforts to confront the coronavirus pandemic, and the cost would be covered by federal coronavirus relief funding.
Interestingly, a recent investigation by MLive revealed that, just as in Wisconsin (and other left-leaning states), the nearly $400 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, to “support election administration in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” helped Michigan facilitate the 2020 election. And just like in Wisconsin, the funds were given directly to local election officials by the non-profit Center for Tech and Civic Live (CTCL). As reported by UncoverDC, the grant required the recipients to consent to specific conditions or return the money.
Besides the pending case in Antrim County, which is mentioned below, there is at least one other unresolved lawsuit in Michigan. Still in the discovery phase, the suit is filed against SoS Benson in the state Court of Claims by voters who allege local clerks violated election law when they accepted grant funds (from organizations like CTCL) to govern elections without state monitoring, guidance, or oversight. That lawsuit is currently scheduled to be concluded by July 16.
Dominion Systems and the Ongoing Lawsuit in Antrim County
Republican-leaning Antrim County, which has approximately 23,000 residents, achieved national attention after the November election. It was discovered that thousands of votes were flipped from President Trump to Joe Biden through Dominion voting machines, which serve 63 of the 83 counties in Michigan. According to Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, the error was quickly corrected, and a hand count revealed Trump won with close to 57% of the vote. As a noteworthy aside, in a unanimous vote last week, Guy, along with other Antrim County Commissioners, voted to keep Dominion voting machines “on ice” and hand count all ballots cast in the upcoming May 4 primary, which some officials acknowledged may defy state law.
In late November 2020, attorney Matthew DePerno filed a lawsuit against Antrim County, Michigan, on behalf of his client, county resident William Bailey, who asserts that on Nov. 6 when votes for that township were re-tabulated during attempts to correct errors in the unofficial results, three ballots were damaged and not recounted, resulting in the approval of a ballot initiative to allow a marijuana dispensary in the township, after initially resulting in a tie vote. Bailey's lawsuit focuses squarely on allegations that Dominion Voting Systems tabulators and software can't be trusted.
Antrim County 13th Circuit Judge Kevin Elsenheimer subsequently ruled that Bailey's legal team could examine the county's voting machines as part of the lawsuit. On Dec. 6, Dallas-based cybersecurity firm Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG) performed a "forensic audit" of the Dominion machines. As previously reported by UncoverDC, ASOG's Forensic Report (which wasn't made public at the time) concluded that Dominion machines were "intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results."
On Dec. 9, following ASOG's report, SoS Benson filed an emergency motion and was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit, giving the state access to scrutinize the election fraud claims pleaded in the case. On that same day, Michigan Department of State spokesman Jake Rollow warned in a statement to The League of Women Voters of Dearborn-Dearborn Heights that the primary goal of ASOG "is to continue spreading false information designed to erode the public's confidence in the election," adding that "by doing so, they injure our democracy and dishonor the 5.5 million Michigan citizens who cast ballots." Rollow continued, saying:
“As Attorney General William Barr, the FBI and CISA have found that this was the most secure election in our nation’s history and despite unprecedented scrutiny, there has been no evidence of widespread fraud identified whatsoever.”
On Dec. 15, in a hearing with Michigan legislators to investigate the fraud allegations, Dominion CEO John Poulos balked at ASOG's report. Poulos declared under oath that the report was "categorically false" and was released by a "biased group." It is worth noting, since the November election, Dominion has filed multiple defamation lawsuits (including a $1.3 billion suit against Rudy Giuliani and similar suits against Sidney Powell and Mike Lindell), claiming to have suffered "irreparable damage" to its name and reputation over claims about its technology.
On the evening of Jan. 25, Judge Elsenheimer lifted the protective order on the Dominion Voting System forensic audit report, allowing the details to be unsealed and released to the public. The report revealed that ASOG concluded that the machines and software in Michigan demonstrated that it was "designed" to "create systemic fraud" and influence election results. Russell Ramsland Jr., former NASA and MIT technician and co-founder of Allied Security Operations Group, said in a preliminary report:
“We conclude that the Dominion Voting System is intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results. The system intentionally generates an enormously high number of ballot errors.
The electronic ballots are then transferred for adjudication. The intentional errors lead to bulk adjudication of ballots with no oversight, no transparency, and no audit trail.
Based on our study, we conclude that The Dominion Voting System should not be used in Michigan. We further conclude that the results of Antrim County should not have been certified.”
Antrim County election fraud lawsuit hearing, March 22
With those startling results, the scope of the ongoing case seems to be consistently widening since it was first filed in November. As assistant Attorney General Erik Grill moves to have it dismissed, Judge Elsenheimer ruled in a Mar. 22 online hearing that it is irrelevant whether DePerno coordinated or communicated with former President Donald Trump's campaign or legal team, including Rudy Giuliani and lobbyist Katherine Friess. Judge Elsenheimer did not ask DePerno whether or not such communications existed. Grill explained his curiosity in wanting the information to the judge in Monday's hearing, saying:
“The interest I have is knowing to what extent the Trump campaign, or members of the Trump campaign, or attorneys, have involvement in this case. And whether or not coordination was driving this case, and keeping it going, long after a point that it really should have stopped.”
In Monday's meeting, lawyers discussed discovery issues in the case. Both sides maintain the other is withholding information that is preventing the lawsuit from moving forward. DePerno, who filed his expert witness list in late December, claims SoS Benson's office is withholding records ordered by Judge Elsenheimer to be turned over by Feb. 2. Contrarily, the state attorney general's office, which represents Benson, accuses Bailey and his attorney of evading depositions that it has been trying to schedule since early January.
At least three county clerks in Oakland, Kent, and Macomb counties have been subpoenaed to provide their 2020 election records, including paper ballots, digital storage devices, reports, and poll books. DePerno is still waiting to receive a wide assortment of records from SoS Benson, including election spending documents and conversations with big tech companies (like Facebook and Google, who are listed as key funders at CTCL) that the plaintiff maintains were involved to manipulate the election. Concerning some of the requested discovery, Grill commented:
"I can't imagine for the life of me what his experts need with all emails (from Google). I don't know what his experts would need with all FOIA requests sent to the state of Michigan and the response to them. I know what his experts need with correspondence between the Secretary of State and news agencies, let alone a myriad of other requests, including one request Mr. DePerno pounded in which he's asking for information about the Secretary of State's husband."
Antrim County and the state's attorneys contend the discovery requests are overly broad and tedious and have filed a motion requesting the judge limit their scope. The controversy over what records the state will be required to provide is expected to be ruled on during an Apr. 12 hearing. At issue is whether the secretary of state's office will be granted permission to turn over certain documents under a protective order, meaning, for example, only specific parties (attorneys and witnesses) will have access to them. In a brief, Assistant Attorney General Erik Grill stated the requested protective order applies to "a small number of documents concerning physical security at the polls" that state police were reluctant to release without a protective order in place.
Bewildered by the apparent lack of concern over election integrity, DePerno commented:
“It is hard to imagine that considering the fraud that occurred in Antrim County, that not one person in the defendant’s office made one single cable to Antrim County. Further, there is not one single correspondence, communications or document produced between defendant Benson and the Michigan House or Senate regarding Antrim County.”