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Michigan GOP lawmakers subpoena for election records amid Capitol protests

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan's Republican lawmakers issued a subpoena Saturday for voting-related records as they vowed to examine unsubstantiated claims about the state's presidential election.

As Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner and protesters clashed on the Capitol lawn, the Senate and House oversight committees approved the subpoena seeking documents from the Michigan Department of State.

Asked what he would say to the demonstrators who are falsely claiming the election had been "stolen" from President Donald Trump, Senate Oversight Chairman Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said "pouring gas on the situation" was not wise.

Trump supporters demonstrating the election results face off with counter protesters at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Saturday.

“I haven’t seen evidence yet that can be confirmed that that would be a true statement," McBroom said of the claim that the election had been "stolen." "So I think it’s unwise to say that."

The Senate chairman said there are concerns about the integrity of the process and having a legislative committee review such concerns was not unheard of.

But Democratic lawmakers blasted the subpoena, contending that Republicans were trying to cast doubt on the results. Biden, the former vice president, won Michigan 51%-48% or by more than 146,000 votes, nearly 14 times Trump's margin in the state four years ago.

"This is nothing but trying to sow distrust in the process," said Sam Inglot, deputy director of the liberal group Progress Michigan. "There is no clear scope for this committee. There is no direct evidence that they've been able to refer to."

Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, said the people had spoken in Tuesday's election and the Republicans' move on Saturday was "crazy."

"This is nothing more than political theater," Johnson said.

The rare Saturday meeting of the House and Senate oversight committees came a day after Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said the fight over the election wasn't over.

While McDaniel and Cox shied away from directly questioning the outcome, they said "irregularities" in the vote needed to be pursued, including poll watchers being turned away in Detroit and tabulation issues in Antrim County. However, they provided only anecdotal evidence of the "irregularities" — some of which election officials immediately rejected as isolated incidents.

The results in Antrim County initially showed that Biden had won the Republican-leaning county. However, there was a discrepancy and the results were later changed. The issue occurred because of an error by the Antrim County clerk, who failed to update software used to collect data from voting machines, the Michigan Department of State said Friday.

The Department of State, led by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, said McDaniel's claims had no merit.

"Michigan’s elections were conducted fairly, effectively and transparently and are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan voters," the department said in a statement.

The leaders of the House and Senate oversight committees said they were looking for communications and documents related to the primary and general elections. But, according to the subpoena, they are seeking documents and communications related to the mass mailing of absentee ballot applications to registered voters in the spring and later mass mailings of information about people's right to vote.

The Republican lawmakers want the information by 5 p.m. Nov. 16. Democrats opposed issuing the subpoena.

Asked if he had anything other than anecdotal evidence to suggest there was wrongdoing in the election, McBroom responded, "I have people who claim to be firsthand witnesses of things who say they have observed inappropriate or wrong behaviors going on.

"Do you call those anecdotal when they’re firsthand witnesses?”

But he also acknowledged that he was receiving differing statements from observers about what occurred in certain situations.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan

Hundreds of protesters on the Capitol lawn Saturday were more certain something improper happened, but their claims were generally broader and more unproven.

"Russians must have delivered the ballots at 3:30 a.m.," one sign on the lawn said. The pro-Trump demonstrators chanted, "We won," and "four more years."

Someone with a megaphone on the Capitol steps told the Trump supporters to demand a recount and show up at local board meeting to oppose the approval of election results.

"Our Legislature never takes action unless they see that the people demand it," the man with the megaphone told the crowd. "So we need to be here on the steps ... daily."

"To protect our republic, we need to have a recount of the ballots," said Sharon Rubingh of Delhi Township, who participated in the demonstration.

Around noon, the larger crowd of Trump supporters clashed verbally with another group of demonstrators, who held "Black lives matter," signs. The two factions quickly broke apart. There didn't appear to be any major incidents of violence.

cmauger@detroitnews.com