Voters drop lawsuit seeking to invalidate a fifth of Michigan's votes

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Four Michigan voters dropped a lawsuit Monday without explanation that they filed last week in a federal Grand Rapids court seeking to invalidate votes in three of the state's largest counties.  

It's the latest casualty in a slew of lawsuits filed in Michigan after Election Day seeking to stop, halt or change the vote count that flipped the state back in favor of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

The courts have already quashed a handful of them in their early stages, including one suit seeking to stop the certification of Wayne County's results until a full audit could be performed. Wayne County Circuit Chief Judge Timothy Kenny's decision to deny a preliminary injunction in that case was also appealed on Monday and quickly denied. 

A box is dedicated to problem ballots as Detroit absentee ballots are processed at TCF Center, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

The four voters seeking to invalidate countywide votes — Lena Bally, Steven Butler, Gavriel Grossbard and Carol Hatch — argued in their lawsuit that they were worried their votes were "unconstitutionally diluted" by fraudulent ballots. They offered no new evidence to support the claims of fraud, instead citing other lawsuits and conservative blogs. 

The plaintiffs wrote in the initial complaint that they would do a data analysis of poll books and other records to create "expert reports" that would provide proof of fraud. They asked the courts to invalidate all votes in Wayne, Washtenaw and Ingham counties — three reliably Democratic counties that voted for Biden in November. 

James Bopp, the attorney representing Bally and the other plaintiffs, declined to say why they decided to drop the case, citing attorney-client privilege. 

If successful, the suit would have invalidated more than 20% of the votes cast in Michigan's presidential election and would have flipped the state in favor of President Donald Trump. 

“This case was clearly designed to spread misinformation about the security and integrity of Michigan elections,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a Monday statement.

“Our elections have been conducted fairly and transparently and the results reflect the will of Michigan’s voters. Any claims to the contrary are wholly without merit.”

Two poll challengers seeking to stop the certification of Wayne County's election results also appealed a ruling in a separate lawsuit Monday, arguing that they would suffer "an irreparable injustice" if the courts don't halt the certification of results immediately.

A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals promptly denied the appeal Monday evening "for failure to persuade the Court" fraud happened. Two judges were appointed by Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder and one was appointed by Democratic former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers is set to meet Tuesday afternoon to make the county's election results official before forwarding them to the Board of State Canvassers. 

The two challengers, represented by the Great Lakes Justice Center, asked the courts for an independent audit of the Wayne County election results before the board certifies them and for an order to void the results and stage a new election in Wayne County. Kenny denied their request on Friday, writing that "the allegations simply are not credible."

They had argued poll challengers were restricted from fulfilling their poll challenger duties, that election workers were asked to change the dates on late absentee ballots to make it appear they had arrived on time, that workers coached voters to vote for Biden, that officials didn't check signatures on absentee ballots and more. 

Detroit officials denied the allegations and explained how many of the witnesses' observations were mischaracterizations of normal electoral functions. For example, what the plaintiffs thought were "tens of thousands" of "unsecured" ballots being unloaded into the absentee ballot counting board on Election Day were blank ballots used to count ballots too damaged to feed through a tabulator.

Kenny said they failed to offer reliable proof, relying instead on "generalized" affidavits that lacked credibility or evidence to back up their assertions. To stop the certification of results would amount to "judicial activism," he said. 

The challengers may appeal to the state Supreme Court, which would decide whether to hear the appeal.

Twitter: @rbeggin