Trump keeps misleading on 2020 election, pressures Michigan Senate

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Former President Donald Trump targeted the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate on Friday as he continued his efforts to challenge the state's 2020 election results with misleading claims.

Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump, the GOP incumbent, by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points in November, and six months later, there is no evidence of wrongdoing that would have changed the outcome. Still, Trump and his backers have waged a months-long campaign, which began before Election Day, to discredit the results with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

"Has the Michigan State Senate started their review of the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 yet, or are they about to start?" Trump questioned in a statement issued at about 10 a.m. Friday. "If not, they should be run out of office."

President Donald Trump attends his last campaign rally of the 2020 election in Grand Rapids on Nov. 2; he ended up losing to Democrat Joe Biden by nearly 3 percentage points.

After Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield met with Trump in the White House in late November, they released a statement saying they have "not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan." 

The Michigan Senate's Oversight Committee spent months probing the election, but its chairman, Sen. Ed McBroom, acknowledged this week that he found no evidence of widespread fraud that would prove "vast conspiracies of vote switching or manipulation of software."

Senate Republicans are currently supporting a 39-bill package of changes to state election laws that they say would increase "integrity" in the vote. However, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has labeled the proposals "poisonous" and an attack on democracy.

"These proposals are based on the lies that sought to undermine the will of the voters in our democracy last year," Benson said last month. "And they should be seen for what they are: an extension of those same lies, seeking to continue to undermine the will of Michigan citizens."

Michigan Senate Republicans unveiled their proposals on March 24 amid a national wave of GOP bills that would overhaul voting policies. The most controversial bills in the package would bar the secretary of state from sending out absentee ballot applications unless voters request them, would change how canvassing boards operate in large counties and would require applicants for absentee ballots to attach a copy of identification.

Trump's Friday statement shows that the former president, who remains extremely influential within the Republican Party, still wants to sway GOP lawmakers in Michigan. The pressure puts those legislators in a difficult spot between Trump supporters who want a massive overhaul to election laws that would restrict voters' ability to cast their ballots and opponents who are opposed to any changes that could limit the right to vote.

Republicans currently hold 20 of the 38 seats in the Senate. Two of the 38 seats are vacant. It's unclear why Trump targeted the Senate Friday and not the Republican-controlled Michigan House, which hasn't proposed voting law changes that are as aggressive as the Senate's bills.

Shirkey spokeswoman Abby Walls said Friday that McBroom has already conducted a "very thorough review" of the election.

Trump's Friday statement claimed there was a "dump" of votes in Wisconsin in addition to Michigan. He called them "state election changing events," which he said were on top of "other corruption."

The statement levied a misleading claim that "a dump of 149,772 votes came in to the State of Michigan" on the morning of Nov. 4, a day after the election. Biden received 96% of those votes and the state went to him, the former president said.

It's unsurprising that ballots counted later in the process would have gone heavily for Biden for two reasons. First, Trump raised a bevy of criticisms about absentee ballots that spurred some of his supporters not to use that method of voting, and, in many situations, absentee ballots were counted later than in-person votes. Second, large urban areas usually took longer to count their ballots, and those areas tended to vote overwhelmingly for Biden.

In Michigan's largest city, Detroit, Biden received 96% of the absentee votes cast for president. Trump received 3%.

Among absentee voters and in-person voters, Biden received 94% of the vote in Detroit, and Trump 5%. It was a marked improvement for the former president from four years earlier, when Democrat Hillary Clinton got 95%, and Trump received 3%.

Rob Macomber, chief deputy clerk for Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons, a Republican, noted on Twitter that votes appearing in media tallies on election night, which some Trump supporters have used as evidence of a "dump," have no official meaning.

Media members take tallies from local governments to arrive at the statewide total.

"Votes aren't 'dumped' anywhere," Macomber tweeted. "That's a word w/ zero meaning in reality. Michigan votes are, however, counted by thousands of clerks in 83 different counties who count them all, over vastly differing periods of time."