Macomb County GOP votes to censure Republicans behind Senate election report

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Republican Party in one of Michigan's largest counties voted Thursday to censure three GOP lawmakers who serve on the Senate panel that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the state's 2020 election.

The Macomb County party's executive committee voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, according to Mark Forton, the party's chairman; Lisa Mankiewicz, the vice chairwoman; and Terence Mekoski, a former GOP state Senate candidate who was at the meeting.

State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan

Also at the meeting, the Republicans said, was Matthew DePerno, an attorney from Kalamazoo who has helped lead the effort to question election results. The Senate's election report accused DePerno of spreading "demonstrably false" information.

The Macomb County GOP's resolution to censure Sens. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; Lana Theis, R-Brighton; and John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, focused on the Oversight Committee's suggestion that Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel investigate those who pushed false claims "to raise money or publicity for their own ends."

People have the right under the First Amendment to question the election, Forton said.

"It was written so that you could question your government at any level, without worrying about them coming after you,” he said.

The county chairman said more than 200 people attended Thursday's meeting. At one point, he asked the crowd whether former President Donald Trump had won the last election and the entire crowd yelled yes, he said.

"I wanted them to see the mood of Macomb County’s people," Forton said of DePerno, who is now running for the Republican attorney general's nomination, and Kristina Karamo, who's seeking the GOP nomination for secretary of state.

Karamo was also in attendance Thursday.

In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan. Despite unsubstantiated claims levied by the former president, the result has been reinforced by bipartisan boards of canvassers, dozens of audits by election workers and a series of court rulings.

The Senate Oversight Committee developed its report through 28 hours of committee testimony from about 90 people, a review of thousands of subpoenaed documents and hundreds of hours of Senate staff investigation. The committee found "no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election," the report said.

The resolution approved by Republicans in Michigan's third largest county, a Trump stronghold, is another high-profile sign of the frustration that continues to brew within the battleground state's GOP. 

Some party activists claim the election was "rigged" and the GOP-controlled Legislature should mandate an audit of the votes and machines involved in tabulating the results. However, other party members acknowledge there is no evidence to prove widespread fraud occurred and want to move onto the next election in 2022.

Earlier this summer, the Michigan Republican Party's Issues Committee rejected a proposal to call for McBroom's resignation over the Senate Oversight Committee's report. McBroom, the chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee, said Friday that he was not aware of the Macomb County resolution.

"I’m not going to worry too much about it. I’m not running in Macomb County," McBroom said.

Being disavowed by a downstate county party can only be a badge of honor, joked the lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula.

McBroom said some people have presumed the report's suggestion that Nessel investigate "those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends" is about them.

The idea that the recommendation was about everyone who doubts the election is "another outright lie," McBroom said.

“I don’t know what else to say, except people have to check the report and make a judgment call," he added.

DePerno has gained notoriety leading a legal challenge questioning the election in conservative Antrim County, where initial and unofficial results showed Biden winning. However, election workers later realized that they had failed to update equipment after making additions to their ballots, causing the results to be jumbled. In the final and official results, Trump overwhelmingly won the county.

DePerno and other Trump supporters have connected the changing tallies to election software used in the county. DePerno's "Election Fraud Defense Fund" has reported raising $398,135.

"The committee closely followed Mr. DePerno’s efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions," the Senate Oversight Committee's report said.

Nessel agreed to launch an investigation after the committee's suggestion.

Macomb County was the largest county in Michigan to vote for Trump in 2020. He won it by 8 percentage points.