Nessel: No credible evidence of successful fraud in Michigan election

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office hasn't seen credible information about even isolated voter fraud that was successfully carried out in the Nov. 3 election.

During an interview Monday, 34 days after Election Day, the state's top law enforcement official said there has "definitely" not been evidence of widespread fraud. She said there are investigations involving "isolated incidents of attempted fraud," which is different than wrongdoing that was carried out and not prevented by election officials or legal safeguards.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

"There are so many opportunities to catch fraud," Nessel said, adding later, "There are so many opportunities to catch mistakes that they very rarely occur."

The Democratic attorney general from Plymouth also called on Republicans to denounce conspiracy theories about the election as threats against public officeholders in Michigan proliferate.

"People's lives are at stake," Nessel said, urging GOP officials to speak out.

She made the comments as supporters of President Donald Trump continue to push theories of widespread fraud in Michigan's election without evidence to back up their claims. During a hearing before the Michigan House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, described the state's election as a "con job" as he encouraged Republican lawmakers to somehow intervene in the results.

President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes. That tally has already been certified by the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers. Bipartisan local boards of canvassers have certified county results in all 83 counties.

However, some supporters of Trump continue to claim that there were thousands of fraudulent votes cast in Detroit and that there was a conspiracy involving a software company to shift votes from the president to Biden.

On Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker rejected a lawsuit that sought to overturn Michigan's election based on the unproven conspiracy theories. The suit seemed "less about achieving the relief" the GOP plaintiffs sought and "more about the impact of their allegations on people’s faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government," Parker wrote in her ruling.

The plaintiffs in the suit, six Michigan Republicans, presented only "speculation and conjecture" that votes for Trump were destroyed, discarded or switched to votes for Biden, Parker said.

Many of the individuals who have signed affidavits alleging they saw improper things occur in Michigan's election "don’t understand how the system works," Nessel said.

For instance, local clerks have processes in place that help prevent someone from being able to vote twice, including a system that tracks the status of ballots and participating voters. In November, Nessel's office charged a Canton Township man who forged a signature on an absentee ballot that was voided before the election. The man was accused of trying to submit his daughter's absentee voter ballot.

Nessel pointed to the fact that in the 2016 election, an audit found that 31 Michiganians appeared to have voted twice. The individuals weren't charged during then-Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette's tenure as many of them were seniors who mistakenly voted multiple times and there wasn't criminal intent, Nessel said.

Republican officials need to come out and publicly acknowledge that conspiracy theories about the Nov. 3 election are untrue, Nessel said. The current theories are helping drive threats against officeholders on both sides of the aisle, she contended.

On Saturday night, protesters demonstrated outside Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's home in Detroit after dark. Benson is the state's top election official. And state Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, said she received threatening phone calls after she participated in the House Oversight Committee hearing that featured Giuliani and pushed back against his claims.

One voicemail targeted Johnson with vile language to describe women and threatening the state lawmaker who is Black, with being lynched, telling her: "Your time is coming ... from the (expletive) gallows you'll be hanging."

When it comes to threats again officeholders, Nessel said, "We intend to be very vigorous in pursuing these claims."

Nessel said she is "legitimately concerned" about the safety of officeholders on both sides of the aisle.

Staff Writers Beth LeBlanc and Oralandar Brand-Williams contributed.