Michigan Trump supporters plan petition initiative to require election audit

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Supporters of former President Donald Trump say they're organizing a petition campaign with the goal of requiring a new audit of the 2020 election in Michigan.

They discussed their plans during a rally outside the state Capitol Tuesday. The gathering drew hundreds of people and featured speeches from critics of how last year's presidential election was administered, including Trump-backed candidates for secretary of state and attorney general, Kristina Karamo and Matthew DePerno.

Jon Rocha, a Republican candidate for the U.S. House from Portage, said he's been working with state Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, on the petition language to require an audit. Rocha plans to submit the language to the Michigan Department of State in the coming days, the initial step in the process of attempting to initiate a change in law.

Matthew DePerno, a Republican candidate for attorney general, and Jon Rocha, who's planning an initiative campaign, chat during a rally in favor of an audit of the 2020 election outside the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021.

"This isn't about overturning an election," Rocha said. "This is about making sure that we're secure."

Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump, the Republican nominee, by 154,000 votes in Michigan or 3 percentage points. Dozens of past audits, a series of court rulings and an investigation by the GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee have upheld the outcome.

So far, the Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled state Legislature have resisted the idea of requiring an audit of the election by an outside group, like what occurred in Arizona's Maricopa County.

The potential initiative campaign could force GOP lawmakers to again consider the possibility, which has already created divisions within their party.

Supporters of the initiative campaign said their plans are to get the measure before the Legislature and for the Senate and the House to approve it. If they gathered 340,047 valid signatures and lawmakers voted for the policy, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would not be able to use her power to block an audit.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson criticized the rally focused on calling for an audit Tuesday.

"It’s disgraceful to see the former president and his enablers in the Michigan legislature continue to undermine faith in what was a successful, secure election, executed exceptionally well by over 1,500 clerks & affirmed by 250+ audits conducted by professional election officials," Benson tweeted.

Rocha said the audit would cost $6 million to $10 million and would be performed by a third party, selected by a board, under the proposal. Rocha said he has donors who are prepared to fund his initiative campaign but he declined to identify those individuals on Tuesday.

Carra introduced his bill to require an audit of the 2020 election in June. It hasn't advanced.

Under his proposal, a bipartisan board would hire an outside group to conduct the audit, examining 10% of the precincts in each of Michigan's 83 counties and 20% of the precincts in Detroit, the state's largest city and a Democratic stronghold.

Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, spoke in support of an audit during Tuesday's rally.

Asked if she believes there's enough votes in the Legislature to require an audit of the last election, Rendon said she's not sure that there are today.

"But they're changing," Rendon added.

cmauger@detroitnews.com