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Michigan judge: Names of Antrim County election 'investigators' can be released

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

A Michigan judge denied an effort Monday morning to conceal the identities of the "forensic investigators" behind an analysis that spurred unsubstantiated election fraud claims from supporters of President Donald Trump. 

On Dec. 14, attorney Matthew DePerno and his client, Antrim County resident William Bailey, successfully urged Judge Kevin Elsenheimer to allow the release of a 23-page report on voting machines in the county. Michigan officials called the report inaccurate and misleading, but Trump, who lost the state by 154,000 votes, said it showed "massive fraud."

The opening section of a report from Allied Security Operations Group on Antrim County's election is pictured.

DePerno later asked Elsenheimer to issue a protective order, barring the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's office and Attorney General Dana Nessel's office from disclosing the names of the "forensic team" involved in the analysis.

During a Monday court hearing, DePerno contended that the release of the information would lead to threats against the individuals. He labeled Nessel, a Democrat whose office opposed the protective order request, "extremely partisan" and "militant."

"It is clear that Dana Nessel can't be trusted with this basic information, like the names and identities of these people on the forensic team," DePerno said. "She will publicly reveal their information."

Elsenheimer, a former Republican state lawmaker, disagreed, saying the names of expert witnesses in the case are a matter of court record. Barring the release of their names would be "extraordinary," he said.

"The court believes that is frankly part of the process," the judge said. "The court system is an open one. When one participates in it, there is a loss, if you will, of privacy, absent some specific clear threat against a person that is actionable."

But Elsenheimer said personal identifying information, like phone numbers and email addresses, should not be released.

Erik Grill, an assistant attorney general, has argued that the people behind the analysis and their professional credentials were an important part of the report itself.

"There is no such thing as a secret expert," Grill said.

Antrim County, which is reliably Republican, has been in the national spotlight because its initial results on election night showed President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, ahead of Trump by 3,200 votes. Election officials later determined there were problems in the tabulation of the results, and Trump ended up winning the county by more than 3,700 votes in the final tally, which was later confirmed by an audit.

But supporters of the president jumped on the initial error and have used it in their attempt to discredit the results in multiple battleground states that voted for Biden and the voting technology used in Antrim County, Dominion Voting Systems.

But John Poulos, CEO of Dominion Voting Systems,told Michigan lawmakers on Dec. 15 that there were no "switched or deleted votes" involving his company's machines.