2 Michigan lawmakers listed in suit seeking legislative approval of election results

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Two Republican members of the Michigan House were listed among the plaintiffs in a new federal lawsuit that aims to require state legislatures to certify the results of presidential elections.

Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the lawsuit targets five battleground states, including Michigan, and featured 23 plaintiffs: five organizations, 10 voters and eight state lawmakers. The two Michigan lawmakers listed were Reps. Matt Maddock, R-Milford Township, and Daire Rendon, R-Lake City.

State Rep. Daire Rendon, left, and alternate elector Debra Ness make comment after trying to enter the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Dec. 14, 2020. The electors are casting their votes today at the capitol for the president and vice president.

"Voters in presidential elections have a constitutional right to have their respective state legislatures meet after the election and certify their votes and, based on the votes, certify the presidential electors whose votes are counted in Congress to elect the president and vice president," the lawsuit contended.

But within hours of the filing, Maddock said he and Rendon were working to remove their names from the suit. They had allowed their names to be used "but what was eventually filed is very different than what was initially discussed," Maddock said without providing details of what changed.

The Amistad Project of the conservative nonprofit Thomas More Society is backing the new litigation, which is the latest in a string of lawsuits brought by supporters of President Donald Trump to challenge the results of the Nov. 3 election. President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, won Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona, the five states whose leaders are named as defendants in the new case.

The named Michigan defendants are Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering.

In Michigan, Biden beat Trump by 154,000 votes. The Board of State Canvassers and bipartisan boards in all 83 counties have certified the results in accordance with current state law. While Trump's backers have claimed there was widespread fraud, they have not backed up their assertions with evidence.

The new suit includes more than 40 pages of claims about Michigan's election — many of which have been mentioned in past unsuccessful lawsuits or have been criticized by election experts. They include complaints about the mailing of absentee ballot applications to registered votes and the access provided to Republican poll challengers in Detroit. The suit also questions the results in northern Michigan's Antrim County, where a hand tally of the presidential vote backed up the official numbers last week.

Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford

Michigan Republican lawmakers have launched oversight committee hearings, which have examined the Nov. 3 election and issued subpoenas for documents. Still, the new lawsuit contends that state legislatures are "unable to review the manner in which the election was conducted" and "are prevented from exercising their investigative powers."

"In sum, state legislatures are impotent to respond to what happened in the November 3, 2020, election," the suit says.

The Michigan House and Senate had been in session for weeks after the Nov. 3 election, but the chambers' leaders, Shirkey and Chatfield, had said they would not overturn the popular vote in Michigan.

The new suit says Whitmer, a Democrat, "mobilized the state police to secure the state Capitol to prevent Republican legislators entry to the building" on Dec. 14 when the state's 16 presidential electors cast their formal votes for Biden.

The Michigan House offices and the Michigan Senate offices were closed on Dec. 14 because of what were described as "credible threats of violence." The Michigan Capitol was closed to the public that day because of safety concerns and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Maddock and Rendon were among a group of Republicans who tried to enter the building but were turned away. Rendon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

"Our Republican electors felt that they needed to be seated today, too, due to all the irregularities in the past election," Rendon said last week.

The suit says the plaintiffs seek "to restore the constitutional authority and duty of the legislative bodies of their respective states in the selection of presidential electors to correct 'the tumult and disorder' and lawlessness."

"Plaintiffs hope a constitutional crisis can be avoided," the suit adds. "There is time before the January 20, 2021, inaugural of the president and vice president for the court to require the state legislatures to meet and consider post-election certification of the presidential electors.

"The people’s representatives comprising the state legislatures of the respective states must be afforded the opportunity to act as a whole to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and to restore faith in the election process."

Under current Michigan law, the state's presidential electors go to the candidate who received the most votes as certified by the Board of State Canvassers. The board certified the state's results on Nov. 23.