Michigan Republican nominees for statewide office spread false doubts about elections

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The Republican nominees for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general in Michigan have denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election results.

With less than 20 days to go until the midterm elections, Michigan's Republican candidates for the state's executive offices are focusing on the security of elections they have all been calling into question since 2020. 

Michigan gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, appearing on the talk radio program "Michigan's Big Show," cast doubt on whether the midterm elections would be secure. Criticizing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's vetoes of Republican-sponsored legislation aimed at tightening voter registration requirements, Dixon told host Michael Patrick Shiels:

She wouldn't pass commonsense election laws. We're talking about voter ID, we're talking about purging the voter rolls. She wouldn't pass that, and now they have the proposal on the ballot to try to eliminate voter ID for good. And they're saying that doesn't eliminate voter ID, but it does, it makes it so that you don't have to have a voter ID ever in the state of Michigan. These are certainly concerns until we have commonsense election laws in the state of Michigan, which is what nearly every other state has, then I will be concerned that our votes are not counting. (7:25)

Ballots in Michigan for voting in the November midterm elections will contain Proposal 2, an initiative by which the voters will decide whether to add a new amendment to the state Constitution that would make voting easier, streamlining procedures for voter identification, voting by absentee ballot, and certification of election results. The proposal would also provide that only election officials would be permitted to conduct post-election audits.

Dixon has consistently highlighted election integrity as part of her platform. But she has equivocated over whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. During her primary campaign she said repeatedly that she did not consider it to be. Since winning her party's nomination, however, she has been more reluctant to voice an opinion, preferring instead to go after her opponent's policies on the COVID-19 pandemic, education and economic policies.

Dixon is one of three Republican candidates running for statewide office that have denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election results and made election security a key part of their platform.

The GOP's nominee for secretary of state, Kristina Karamo, garnered the endorsement of former President Donald Trump after alleging that she had witnessed fraud during the counting of votes in Detroit after the 2020 election.

Karamo has claimed that Donald Trump won Michigan despite multiple audits of the election and a Senate Oversight Committee report proving otherwise. Her campaign website details what steps she would take as secretary of state to guarantee election security, including "securing all election system related data as it flows through the voting systems along with ballot paper, printing, transportation, and processing."

The website says: "All reports from citizens reporting statutory, rule or standard operating procedure violations must be investigated in-depth consistent with election system corruption representing a state and national security threat."

In a campaign speech in Antrim County on Oct. 11, Karamo said of Whitmer, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, all of whom are running for reelection:

They're not preparing for a reelection campaign. They're preparing for the destruction of our state. When you look at what Benson has done to our election system, that's what caused me to jump into the race. … Even if we don't even talk about 2020 anymore, look at what Benson is doing now in '22. Look at what's happening with her issuing these illegal edicts against poll challengers. Our poll challengers are our guardians on the ground.

The Michigan Secretary of State's Office provides a detailed guide for poll watchers and election challengers, updated in May 2022, that lays out both their rights and the framework within which they must work.

Matt DePerno, the GOP nominee for attorney general, is currently under investigation over his alleged attempts to prove fraud in 2020 by tampering with state election machinery. The Michigan Advance noted on Oct. 12 that the situation is unprecedented, with DePerno being investigated by the holder of the office for which he's running. It pointed out that he has promised, if elected, to indict the sitting attorney general.

At the same campaign event in Antrim County at which Karamo spoke, DePerno made his own speech and referred to the incumbent Nessel as

the most corrupt attorney general in the country. She is a coward, make no mistake about it, and she is entirely incompetent. … And I tell you this, from what we know from inside Dana Nessel's office, 'cause her office is leaky, people, it is leaky — Dana Nessel has a plan to take down our party if she wins again. She is coming after you. … She is going to come after you one by one and take your party apart. That is the plan. Because, people, we are at war right now. And we have to acknowledge it.

Endorsed by Trump, DePerno also has the backing of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser who since 2020 has continued to engage in efforts to discredit the election.

Federal authorities are concerned about potential threats to elections this year. In August, the Justice Department's Election Threats Task Force reported that it had reviewed 1,000 reports by election workers of "hostile or threatening" contacts and that 11% of those "met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation."

Benson told the American Independent Foundation that she recognizes the challenges in the run-up to the election next month but that her department is ready:

The 2022 midterm elections are taking place in the midst of a multi-year, multifaceted nationally coordinated effort to delegitimize democracy. Election officials and our elections themselves are facing an unprecedented wave of continuous, unrelenting harassment and threats as a result of the lies at the heart of this effort. Enduring these threats creates a stress on our work, but has also made us stronger and more determined and prepared as a community to protect the integrity of our democracy. To that end we are working to deter various potential threats and have a rapid response plan in place to minimize the impact of and seek full legal consequences for any that might come to fruition this fall.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.