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Trump supporters dispute Michigan vote count at 'Stop the Steal' rally on Capitol lawn

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Hundreds of people gathered on the Capitol lawn Saturday to protest what they believe was a fraudulent vote count process in Michigan. 

The “Stop the Steal” rally, dotted with American flags, President Donald Trump gear and Gadsden banners, was one of several protests throughout the country Saturday questioning the Nov. 3 vote count and demanding remedies such as investigations, audits and recounts. 

There have been dozens of affidavits, but no other evidence of widespread fraud presented in lawsuits challenging Michigan results results. The lawsuits in Michigan have been unsuccessful so far, with one judge on Friday calling some of the allegations “incorrect” and “not credible.”

Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel has charged one Canton Township man for allegedly filling out an absentee ballot for his daughter.

Speakers at the protest attacked the voting process in Democratic cities and tabulation software used in more than half of Michigan's 83 counties, raising many of the same concerns voiced in the affidavits. They also criticized the media, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and COVID-19 restrictions. 

They didn’t spare Michigan’s Republican leaders either. 

Organizer Kevin Skinner criticized House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, warning them not to “dare” to run for office again. Both Chatfield and Shirkey are term limited in their current roles. 

“We know who you are,” Skinner said. “You better get on our side now or you better plan on getting booted.”

Republican lawmakers have requested an audit of the election from the secretary of state, and the GOP-led Legislature last week convened a joint oversight hearing in which they subpoenaed voting-related records to examine claims about the state's presidential election.

"Trucker" Randy Bishop, a conservative radio host in Northern Michigan, urged Republican lawmakers to flout the popular vote and send 16 Republican electors from Michigan to vote for Trump instead of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Spokespersons for Chatfield and Shirkey said Friday state law prevented them from doing so.

Bishop encouraged them to "break the law" and take the issue to court. 

"They will never, ever win another election ever in the history of their political career unless they send the Republican electors to the Electoral College," he said. 

Ryan Kelley, co-founder of the American Patriot Council, speaks to hundreds of people gathered on the Capitol lawn in Lansing during the "Stop the Steal" rally on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.

Donna Tharge of Otsego said she was in Lansing Saturday to ensure the state has free and fair elections that are correct, something she felt was lacking the week of the election. 

“They stopped in the middle of the night, stopped counting the ballots, counting the votes, when does that happen?” she said. “It’s because they knew they were losing. … I don’t trust any of it.” 

While Trump was leading Biden late into the night Nov. 3, his lead slipped in the early hours of Wednesday and decreased further throughout the day. Officials have said many of the votes reported Nov. 4 were absentee ballot hauls from Democratic-heavy cities and, thus, were highly favorable to Biden. But Tharge said she didn’t believe that excuse.

“I think they’re lying through their teeth like they always do,” she said. 

Mark Johnston of Grosse Pointe Woods had similar doubts about the vote-counting process, alleging Michigan’s election was rife with voting fraud and ballots cast on behalf of deceased individuals.

“We all know the president won an overwhelming victory on Tuesday and it’s got to stay that way,” he said. 

At least one affidavit filed in Trump’s federal lawsuit alleges a dead 42-year-old man has voted, but Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office has said that individual had been canceled from the voting rolls years ago. Two other men with the same name but different ages still are on the state’s voting rolls and may have been the source of the confusion.

The state department also said in a statement that it sampled some of the lists circulating claiming dead people had voted in Michigan and found they contain too little information to even compare with the state's qualified voter file.

Neither Tharge nor Johnston believed Trump would concede in the coming days. 

“He won’t,” Johnston said. “There’s no reason for him to.”

Rep.-elect Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, was one of several speakers Saturday calling for "fair, honest and transparent elections."

He questioned decisions prior to Election Day, such as Benson's mailing of absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million Michigan voters, a judge requiring late ballots to be counted only to be overturned days later, and a suit seeking to allow poll challengers within six feet of poll workers processing ballots. 

"Let's verify and confirm that the numbers that we have currently seem to be correct," Carra said. "We might as well look into it. And if Joe Biden got more votes he got more votes."

Melanie Baker of Warren wore a mask and hat promoting “Trump 2020” while she listened to speakers at the Capitol Saturday. Baker questioned any results stemming from Dominion Voting Systems software, a software used in Antrim County when votes on Nov. 3 accidentally were attributed to Biden. The software is used by 46 other counties in Michigan. 

The GOP-leaning county temporarily pulled its results offline after the issue was brought to its attention by media, and later posted corrected results reallocating votes to Trump. The clerk and secretary of state later explained the issue occurred because the clerk failed to update software used to pull data from the tabulators. 

Officials said the canvassing process would have caught the discrepancy if it wasn’t brought to their attention earlier. Baker was still skeptical, though.

“I trust the system,” she said of the bipartisan canvassing process. “I don’t trust the politicians behind the system at all.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com