Donald Trump says fraud is the only reason he lost the 2020 election. Some even think Trump will be reinstated once the truth comes out. Anyone who finds this narrative at all appealing should take 30 minutes to read the investigative report posted last month by Michigan Republicans. It’s only 35 pages.
The report is from the GOP state Senate’s Oversight Committee, which synthesized testimony from about 90 people, plus thousands of pages of subpoenaed documents. The committee’s chair, Ed McBroom, was a Trump delegate at the 2016 GOP national convention, and in 2019 he was a guest at the White House, looking on while Trump signed an executive order.
While the report identifies “clear weaknesses in our elections system that require legislative remedy,” it is unsparing about misinformation and innuendo. As Democrats regained power after the 2016 election, McBroom writes, “they were quick to utilize all of it to spend two years chasing every conspiracy and specious allegation.” He adds: “I pray my own party will not repeat this mistake for the next four years.”
The committee investigated 200 alleged dead voters. Only two problems were found. One was “a clerical error” involving a father and son with the same name. The other was an absentee ballot submitted by a 92-year-old, who then died four days before the election. That bad ballot should not have slipped through, though the report says 3,500 similar votes were caught.
Detroit’s counting center received deliveries of ballots at 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., but the inquiry found no evidence of fraud. A purportedly suspicious picture “was a photo of a WXYZ-TV photographer hauling his equipment.” Also, look at the numbers: Voter turnout in Wayne County (Detroit) was up only 11.4% last year, compared with 15.4% in the rest of Michigan, which hardly sounds like a dump of fake ballots. Trump received a higher share of Wayne County’s vote in 2020 than in 2016.
Many claims seem to stem from confusion by observers. Workers at Detroit’s counting center didn’t need to examine ballot signatures, the report says, because that task had been done elsewhere. Detroit’s tabulators weren’t connected to the internet, but they were on a local network, which “would create the same icon.”
If it looked as if some ballots were being fed through a scanner more than once, here’s a boring reason: “Ballots go through the tabulator so quickly that a simple jam or other error necessitates the entire bundle being restarted.” Double counting would be obvious, as “the pollbook would show that many more votes were cast than the number of people obtaining a ballot.”
Antrim County’s error last year in misreporting its unofficial vote tallies was explained only days later, yet two months ago Trump was cheering a “bombshell” legal demand for another audit. A judge has since rejected that. The committee’s inquiry backed up the benign story: The county clerk’s computer “was not updated” to reflect late changes to the ballot in certain areas, so the data “did not transfer into their respective spreadsheet columns correctly.”
The printouts from the tabulators were accurate, however, as validated in “a complete hand recount.” The committee says it’s “appalled at what can only be deduced as a willful ignorance or avoidance of this proof.” It suggests Michigan’s attorney general consider “investigating those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”
The report also gives recommendations for reform. It says officials should be barred from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications. It calls for clarifying “the rights and duties of challengers and poll watchers.” It suggests that ballot drop boxes be closed earlier than 8 p.m. on Election Day, so that collecting their contents does not push the counting “so long into the night.”
Trump’s response was predictable. He called the inquiry “a cover up,” while repeating the same nonsense about Detroit and Antrim County. Apparently Trump didn’t actually read the report, but other Republicans should give it a look. The GOP could make real gains in Michigan next year, including replacing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. But it won’t happen if the party spends the next year peering down a rabbit hole of 2020 conspiracy theories.