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Opinion: COVID can't be an excuse for subverting election integrity

Patrick Colbeck

On Oct. 2, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a unanimous 7-0 ruling declaring that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not have the authority to issue executive orders on the basis of a state of emergency beyond April 30. 

Rather than respect the ruling, the governor falsely portrayed the loss of her authority as a partisan decision. She then asserted that she had 21 days (and then 28 days) to comply with the opinion despite explicit language and precedent that indicated immediate effect. 

That bought her time to issue emergency orders via state administrative agencies under other statutes, which she did. The following week, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon issued emergency orders under epidemic provisions of public health code which replicated many aspects of the governor’s previous executive orders.

So, despite the Supreme Court and Legislature’s assertion that the state of emergency ceased on April 30, Whitmer’s administration is still issuing emergency orders.

How so? Well, the public health code is not explicitly tied to the governor’s emergency powers in statute. When the director determines there is an epidemic, the director can issue emergency orders. It is unclear what criteria the director is using as the basis for his epidemic declaration. The percentage of deaths due to the COVID virus has been beneath the CDC threshold of 7.5% to qualify as an epidemic since June 1 in Michigan.

Since the death rate has flattened, the governor has turned to her back-up metric — the number of cases. 

To what end are case numbers being promoted? To fan the flames of fear. When people live in fear, many are willing to look the other way when the rule of law is infringed upon.  When people look the other way, it is easier to subvert the integrity of the election process. 

It is clear that this integrity has been threatened by the following COVID-driven rules, including:

►Mailing absentee ballot applications to all entries in Michigan’s qualified voter file, and changing signature verification requirements for online absentee voter applications;

►Prohibiting poll challengers from being within six feet of poll workers;

►Limiting the number of poll challengers per building.

In addition, election officials in Detroit have been less than transparent regarding whether poll challengers will be allowed to oversee the critical process of verifying the identity of absentee voters. This is most concerning in the wake of an Aug. 4 primary where 72% of precincts were not balanced and therefore not subject to recount.

There are other reasons to be concerned. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson entered into partnership with Rock The Vote to allow the group to add historically Democratic voters directly into the state’s voter registration database that is used to verify the identity of voters.

And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s donated $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life in support of the deployment of ballot drop boxes with dubious oversight in exclusively Democratic voter communities.

We cannot allow COVID to be used as cover for the subversion of our election integrity. It is time to restore the rule of law in Michigan. It is time to ensure that we have a truly free and fair election. The very future of our constitutional republic is at stake.

Patrick Colbeck is a former state senator in Michigan. He lives in Canton.