Secretary of State Benson says she won't appear before House Oversight Committee

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News
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Lansing — Michigan's top election official, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, says she cannot "in good conscience" appear before the House Oversight Committee, which has been probing unsubstantiated fraud claims about the Nov. 3 vote.

Benson, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to House Oversight Chairman Matt Hall, R-Marshall, that she was concerned the GOP-controlled panel was "amplifying already debunked conspiracy theories." The committee "has a responsibility to state unequivocally and publicly that the results of this election are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan's voters," she said.

She also criticized the committee for its handling of its Dec. 2 hearing with President Donald Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani. The former New York City mayor had spread "false and baseless accusations against Michigan public servants," she said.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she cannot "in good conscience" appear before the House Oversight Committee, which has been probing unsubstantiated fraud claims about the Nov. 3 vote.

"Indeed, the hearing was deemed such an embarrassment, lacking in merit and any form of decorum, that it was mocked on national comedy shows as a clear waste of taxpayer dollars," Benson wrote.

The letter was dated Tuesday. Benson posted it on social media Wednesday morning.

In response, Hall said he was disappointed the secretary of state "is brushing aside that opportunity while making excuses and playing cheap political games."

"This is about people, not politics," the Republican lawmaker said. "The electoral votes for Michigan have been submitted. But people in Michigan still have questions about their state’s elections and those questions deserve answers.

"I fear we are headed for more distrust in the future if people are denied clarity and transparency from officials who head up the process."

Michigan's 16 presidential electors cast their votes for Biden on Monday.  In her letter, Benson said the results of the election are an accurate reflection of the will of Michigan voters. President-elect Joe Biden won the state 51%-48%, by 154,000 votes.

"This is the truth, as certified by our State Board of Canvassers, and it is important that every leader acknowledge this in order for us to move forward and solve many of the critical issues ahead of us," Benson wrote in the letter.

It would be "impossible to have a substantive conversation" about election policy if participants continue to claim "fantastical fabrications" are connected to the election, Benson contended.

The House and Senate oversight committees have been holding hearings on the integrity of the election since early November. They've taken testimony from Giuliani, former Michigan elections director Chris Thomas and numerous poll challengers and workers who were at TCF Center, where Detroit's absentee ballots were counted.

On Tuesday, the Senate Oversight Committee took three hours of testimony from Dominion Voting Systems CEO John Poulos, who said claims about his company defied logic. Dominion's technology is used to tabulate votes in 63 of Michigan's 83 counties.

"The disinformation campaign being waged against Dominion defies facts or logic," Poulos said. "To date, no one has produced credible evidence of vote fraud or vote switching on Dominion systems because these things simply have not occurred.”

The House's Giuliani hearing on Dec. 2 was the most high-profile of the meetings. During it, he presented unproven and discredited claims of fraud and labeled Michigan's election a "con job." He also called on Republican lawmakers to somehow intervene in the election's results. The hearing was parodied on "Saturday Night Live."

The purpose of the meeting was to hear from people who witnessed things at TCF Center, where Detroit's absentee ballots were counted, Hall previously said.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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