Michigan Judge Largely Denies RNC’s Challenge To Absentee Ballot Signature Matching Rules | Rachel Selzer/Democracy Docket

A Michigan judge today largely rejected the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) bid to tighten the state’s instructions for verifying signatures on absentee ballot applications and return envelopes ahead of the 2024 election. As a result of today’s ruling, election officials in the consequential battleground state may continue to apply most of the current signature matching rules promulgated by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D). Election officials cannot, however, utilize a slightly more lenient standard contained in the state’s guidance — known as a “presumption of validity” — when verifying signatures, the judge concluded. Read Article

Michigan clerks hit with ‘new reality’ as activists seek voting records in lawsuits | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

Activists, pursuing unproven, yet lingering claims that something is fundamentally wrong with Michigan’s election system, are turning to the courts in the battleground state to try to get access to voting records. At least 18 clerks or local officeholders, across two counties, have been sued over the past year for rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests from people seeking data on voters. In rural Barry County, Irving Township Deputy Clerk Shelly Lake sued clerks from three other townships after trying to obtain past qualified voter lists, according to court records. In Macomb County, Michigan’s third-most populous county, Michael Butz, a 60-year-old retiree from Bruce Township, sued 15 clerks or local officials after asking for data from electronic poll books, which account for eligible voters and their assigned ballots for specific elections in specific precincts. Read Article

Michigan: ‘There’s no fraud here’: how a Republican official is addressing election denialism in his rural county | Alice Herman/The Guardian

Abe Dane would be the first to admit he had concerns about election fraud during the 2020 election. He believed the elections in his own county, where he had worked the polls, were clean – but he wasn’t sure about other counties in the state, where unfounded claims of fraud swirled in 2020. That was before he took a position in local election administration. Now, with first-hand experience, Dane, the director of elections in Hillsdale County, Michigan, is confident in the process. It’s convincing others that’s the challenge now. Read Article

Michigan: Election officials grapple with sweeping voting changes and a presidential election | Fredreka Schouten/CNN

This year, voting will be far easier for Michigan residents – thanks to new laws that establish early voting, automatically send out absentee ballots to voters who requested them and mandate that every community has least one drop box in which to return those ballots. But the changes have made running elections in this crucial presidential battleground much harder – leading some to worry about burnout among the state’s more than 1,500 local clerks, who must juggle increasingly complex election responsibilities with other duties, ranging from town record-keeping to licensing pets. “We just put a Ferrari engine inside a Model T car,” Michael Siegrist, the clerk of Canton Township, said of the sweeping effort to modernize elections in a state that still conducts balloting under a decades-old, hyperlocal system. Read Article

Michigan House panel weighs bills reforming election recounts | Katie O’Brien Kelley/Michigan Advance

The Michigan House Elections Committee heard testimony on Tuesday about Senate Bills 603 and 604, which would modify the recount process, filing fees for recounting and sentencing guidelines for certain Michigan election law violations that deal with recounts. Senate Bill 603 would allow recounts of precincts that have a mismatch between the number of ballots and the ballots issued to voters recorded in a polling place’s log or the ballots that were tabulated. “Under this bill, in cases where the number of ballots issued as shown in the poll book, the number of ballots tabulated as shown on the tabulator tape, or the number of ballots cast as shown by the county canvas are out of balance — but are out of balance at the same or fewer at the time of the recount — under my bill, the precincts can now be recounted as long as there is a satisfactory explanation and a sworn affidavit in a form prescribed by the Secretary of State,” said state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), sponsor of the bill. Read Article

Former township clerk and lawyer in Michigan face charges over voter data breach | Megan Lebowitz and Gary Grumbach/NBC

A former township clerk and her attorney will face charges in Michigan over allegations of a voter data breach related to the 2020 election, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Wednesday. Former Adams Township Clerk Stephanie Scott and her private attorney, Stefanie Lambert, allowed “an unauthorized computer examiner access to voter data, including non-public voter information, concerning the 2020 General Election,” Nessel’s office alleged in a news release. Scott faces six charges — five felonies and a misdemeanor — including concealing or withholding a voting machine and using a computer to commit a crime. Lambert faces three felony charges, including using a computer to commit a crime. It is unclear how they pleaded. Read Article

Michigan: Democrats contend GOP is using  lawsuits to sow election doubts | Craig Mauger The Detroit News

The Democratic National Committee submitted briefs Monday against two election lawsuits brought by Republicans in Michigan courts, arguing the GOP was attempting to “undermine faith in our electoral system.” The filings spotlighted Michigan as a crucial battleground state, six months before the November election, and also highlighted the significant role judges will likely play this year, amid a heightened focus on the policies and personnel guiding voting across the nation. Read Article

Michigan bills to overhaul election recount law pass Senate | Clara Hendrickson/Detroit Free Press

Recounts of Michigan ballot proposals in 2022 did not include a review of enough votes to change any election outcomes. But they left taxpayers with a hefty bill and election officials clamoring for changes to the law. Bills passed by Democrats in the state Senate Tuesday would require recount requests to petition for a review of a greater number of votes than the margin by which a candidate or ballot proposal lost. The legislation would also increase the upfront payment aggrieved candidates and ballot question committees must make and ease the restrictions that have excluded a significant number of votes from past recounts. The legislation next heads to the state House for consideration. Read Article

Michigan:Trump and multiple Republicans named ‘unindicted co-conspirators’ in fake electors case | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

Testimony from an investigator for Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office revealed that former President Donald Trump, along with his aides Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, are considered unindicted co-conspirators in Michigan’s false elector case. This came to light during preliminary examinations where Nessel’s office is pursuing felony charges against 16 Republican activists who signed a certificate falsely claiming Trump won Michigan’s 2020 election. The effort, also mirrored in Arizona, aimed to bolster claims of election fraud. While defense lawyers argue their clients were unaware of the implications of signing the certificate, prosecutors maintain it was part of a larger multi-state criminal conspiracy linked to Trump’s campaign. Read Article

Michigan: Pushing election fraud theories, nonprofit spent $1.2 million in 2022 | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

The America Project, a national nonprofit led by former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, disclosed in a recently filed tax document that it allocated $1.2 million in funding to lawyers and groups in Michigan during the 2022 election year. Among the beneficiaries were the law office of Stefanie Lambert, who faces felony charges related to the 2020 election, and a Waterford Township organization linked to Lambert. The filing, which didn’t provide detailed information on expenditures, raised concerns about efforts to perpetuate conspiracy theories regarding voter fraud, particularly in battleground states like Michigan. Despite bipartisan agreement within the State Board of Elections that the claims were baseless, the disclosure highlighted significant financial backing for initiatives challenging the integrity of the electoral process, even as claims of fraud remain unsubstantiated. Read Article

Michigan: Pro-Trump attorney Stefanie Lambert arrested after hearing over leaking Dominion documents | Joey Cappelletti/Associated Press

Attorney Stefanie Lambert was arrested by U.S. Marshals following a hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., where she faced possible sanctions for disseminating confidential emails from Dominion Voting Systems, obtained while representing Patrick Byrne. Lambert is also facing criminal charges in Michigan for illegally accessing voting machines after the 2020 election. The arrest came after Lambert acknowledged passing Dominion documents to law enforcement and attached some leaked emails to a filing in her Michigan case. Dominion filed a motion to disqualify Lambert from the Byrne case for violating a protective order, triggering threats against the company. U.S. District Court Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya scheduled a subsequent hearing to consider sanctions against Lambert. Read Article

Michigan: People convicted of election-related crimes could be barred from serving on boards certifying votes | Katie O’Brien Kelley/Michigan Advance

The Michigan House Elections Committee deliberated on two bills, House Bill 5551 and House Bill 5550, which aim to alter procedures for recalls and eligibility for serving on election panels. HB 5551, advocated by State Rep. Noah Arbit, seeks to bar individuals convicted of certain election-related crimes from serving on the Board of State Canvassers or any county’s board of election canvassers. Testimonies underscored the necessity of safeguarding the electoral process from individuals with a history of undermining it. Read Article

Michigan judge issues warrant for lawyer who worked to reverse 2020 election | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

Stefanie Lambert, a lawyer involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, faces additional legal trouble after failing to appear for a hearing regarding her compliance with court orders related to fingerprinting and DNA samples. The Oakland County judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest, expressing frustration at her repeated non-compliance. Lambert, already facing felony charges for her alleged involvement in a conspiracy to obtain voting equipment improperly, has been accused of deceiving prosecutors and is now subject to arrest. Her lawyer cited confusion surrounding the hearing, but the prosecutor deemed the bench warrant necessary. Read Article

How Michigan clerks implemented early in-person voting for state’s presidential primary | Tom Perkins/Votebeat

For this week’s primary, clerks in Michigan faced unprecedented challenges in implementing early in-person voting and other recent election law changes aimed at enhancing voter access. Canton Township Clerk Michael Siegrist described it as the toughest cycle ever. Despite hurdles such as voter education, logistical issues, and determining the most efficient early voting methods, Siegrist believes the benefits are significant, providing Michigan voters with ample access while ensuring election security. The presidential primary saw more than 50,000 people statewide taking advantage of early voting. Clerks across municipalities have adopted various approaches, with more populous areas often opting for independent early voting setups, while many rural municipalitiess coordinated with neighboring communities or embraced countywide arrangements. Read Article

Michigan: US Supreme Court allows sanctions against Trump-allied lawyers over 2020 election lawsuit | Lawrence Hurley/NBC

The Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from Trump-aligned lawyers who faced legal sanctions for baseless claims of election fraud in Michigan, upholding a previous ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Among the lawyers sanctioned were Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, who had filed a lawsuit alleging election irregularities including an international conspiracy to sway votes to Biden. The sanctions included payment of legal fees, additional legal training, and referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action. Powell has pleaded guilty in a separate Georgia investigation into election interference, while Wood has retired amidst ongoing probes into his conduct related to the 2020 election. Read Article

Michigan Now Offers In-Person Early Voting  | Beth LeBlanc Hayley Harding/The Detroit News

Michigan’s upcoming presidential primary introduces early in-person voting as a significant shift in election dynamics, alongside the ongoing trend of absentee voting. This new option, enabled by a constitutional amendment passed in 2022, allows voters to cast ballots in person ahead of Election Day. While the impact on voting patterns remains uncertain, campaigns are adapting strategies to engage both early and Election Day voters. The expansion of voting options requires adjustments in staffing and resources for city clerks, with challenges including recruitment and training of election workers. Read Article

Michigan clerks concerned about election software delays | Peter Kobs/CNHI News Service

County and township clerks in northwest Michigan express growing concerns over the delayed delivery of promised election software updates by the state Bureau of Elections, particularly critical for the upcoming nine-day early voting period starting February 17th. The QVF system, essential for early voting, lacks voter data despite the recent addition of an early voting module, leaving local officials untrained and uncertain about its functionality. Additionally, the necessary e-poll book software download to prevent double voting and verify voter eligibility remains unavailable, complicating preparations for early voting and prompting frustrations among clerks regarding the lack of timely communication and guidance from state authorities. Read Article

Michigan: Lawyer used state lawmaker to get voting machines, prosecutor says | Craig Mauger The Detroit News

A special prosecutor has submitted a court filing opposing a motion by former Michigan State Rep. Daire Rendon to dismiss two felony charges against her related to an attempt to obtain voting machines for an investigation into alleged fraud during the 2020 presidential election. The filing reveals that Rendon allegedly convinced local officials in her legislative district to provide tabulators to a private investigator involved in the attempt to prove election fraud. The prosecutor argues that Rendon’s conduct falls outside the legislative sphere, emphasizing that there were no subpoenas or formal investigatory mechanisms used by her to obtain the tabulators. Read Article

Michigan: Trump recorded pressuring Wayne County canvassers not to certify 2020 vote | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

Then-President Donald Trump personally pressured two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, not to sign the certification of the 2020 presidential election, according to newly revealed recordings. The Nov. 17, 2020, phone call, which also involved Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, featured Trump urging the canvassers to reject certification, stating they would look “terrible” if they signed after initially opposing certification. The canvassers later attempted to rescind their votes in favor of certification. Read Article

Michigan vote machine tampering case heads to trial. Are ‘fake electors’ next? | Jonathan Oosting/Bridge Michigan

The trial for three Trump loyalists facing charges related to tampering with Michigan voting machines after the 2020 election has been scheduled for March 4. The suspects, including attorneys Matthew DePerno and Stefanie Lambert, along with former state Rep. Diare Rendon, are accused of illegally seizing election equipment in an unsuccessful attempt to prove voter fraud. Separately, a judge rejected motions to dismiss felony conspiracy and forgery charges against two of the 15 Republicans accused in the false elector scheme. The defendants, including Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden and former Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, are accused of conspiring to forge a “certificate of votes” falsely claiming Trump won Michigan, each facing up to 14 years in prison if convicted. Read Article

Michigan: Trump staffer allegedly urged rioting to obstruct Detroit vote count | Craig Mauger/The Detroit News

Federal prosecutors allege that a campaign employee of former President Donald Trump “encouraged rioting” to obstruct the counting of votes in Detroit after the November 2020 election, drawing a direct connection between the events and the Trump campaign. The allegation is part of a court filing in a criminal case against Trump, focusing on his efforts to overturn the election. The court document indicates that a Trump campaign staffer exchanged text messages encouraging rioting when they learned the vote count was trending in favor of Biden. Read Article

Michigan Governor signs election law overhaul that aims to prevent ‘chaos’ | Jonathan Oosting/Bridge Michigan

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a series of election bills into law, touting them as measures to boost democratic participation and prevent chaos in the event of disputed elections. Among other provisions, the new laws expand voter registration, criminalize poll worker intimidation, regulate political ads using artificial intelligence, and tighten the election certification process. Read Article

The rural Michigan town fighting against rightwing conspiracy theories | Michigan | Alice Herman/The Guardian

Adams Township in Hillsdale county is facing political divisions, far-right influence, and concerns of potential violence leading up to the 2024 elections. The region has been marked by election conspiracy theories, with a faction called “America First Republicans” emerging from the Hillsdale county GOP. The former leader of the Christian Hutaree Militia, David Stone, now chairs this group. Adams Township recently removed a conspiracy theory-promoting clerk and a far-right supervisor, hoping for stability. The new clerk, Suzy Roberts, faces the dual challenge of navigating new statewide election policies for 2024 and countering false conspiracy theories. The transition comes amid a backdrop of threats, harassment, and tensions in the community, highlighting the broader issues surrounding election administration and security in politically divided areas. Read Article

Michigan: Private eye, secret informant aided voting machine tampering probe | Jonathan Oosting/Bridge Michigan

Private investigator Michael Lynch, who was hired by Stefanie Lambert and Matt DePerno, testified before a grand jury and cooperated with authorities in a case involving an alleged voting machine tampering scheme. Lambert and DePerno were indicted for their roles in the scheme, which prosecutors claim involved testing an illegally obtained voting machine to prove it was rigged against former President Donald Trump. Lynch allegedly hosted Lambert, DePerno, and others in his condominium for the testing. Court records reveal that Lynch provided information to authorities in April 2022, meeting with officials from the Department of Attorney General and state police. Read Article

Michigan House advances protections for poll workers, restrictions on AI in political ads | Kyle Davidson/Michigan Advance

The Michigan House of Representatives passed bills aimed at safeguarding elections and election officials. House Bills 4129 and 4130 establish penalties for intimidating or obstructing election officials in the performance of their duties. Violations would range from misdemeanors with fines and imprisonment to felony charges. The legislation defines election officials and specifies what constitutes intimidation. The House also approved bipartisan bills requiring disclaimers on political ads that use artificial intelligence, with penalties for deceptive practices. The bills will move to the Senate Committee on Elections and Ethics for further consideration. These measures come in response to threats and intimidation faced by election workers, with 1 in 3 officials having experienced such incidents, according to a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice. Read Article

Michigan Attorney General drops charges against fake GOP elector after he agrees to cooperate | Marshall Cohen/CNN

James Renner, one of the pro-Donald Trump fake electors charged in Michigan, has agreed to cooperate with state prosecutors in exchange for having his case dismissed. Renner is the first defendant to strike such a deal, and it’s a significant development in the case. As part of the agreement, Renner will provide complete and truthful testimony whenever called upon by prosecutors, including describing the events in the room where the sham certificate was signed in December 2020. The fake GOP electors attempted to subvert the Electoral College process in 2020 by signing illegitimate certificates falsely claiming Trump won the presidential election in Michigan. The remaining 15 defendants, including current and former state GOP officials, have pleaded not guilty. Read Article

Michigan Introduces Legislation to Regulate A.I. in Elections | Public Citizen

Michigan has introduced a bipartisan bill package aimed at regulating content generated by artificial intelligence (A.I.) in election communications. The legislation, brought forward by State Representatives Penelope Tsernoglou, Matthew Bierlein, Noah Arbit, and Ranjeev Puri, requires a disclaimer on political advertisements if they involve A.I.-generated content and bans A.I. deepfakes in election-related communications unless they come with a clear disclosure. The move follows in the footsteps of other states like Texas, Minnesota, California, and Washington, which have already passed similar legislation to address concerns about the use of A.I. in elections. Read Article

Michigan: Overseas ballot transmission for military puts lawmakers at odds | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit News

The Michigan House has passed a bill allowing spouses, children, and family members stationed overseas with military personnel to electronically return their absentee ballots by 2025. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carol Glanville, mandates the development of a secure web portal and rules for ballot submission, requiring them to match the voter’s signature on file and be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Additionally, another bill passed would permit third-party transportation services for voters and eliminate requirements for clerks to automatically challenge certain absentee ballots. Both bills are heading to the Senate, with similar legislation pending. Currently, 31 other states allow certain voters to return ballots electronically. This move has been celebrated by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who assert it will strengthen democracy in Michigan. Read Article

Michigan Democrats advance internet voting bill that worries security experts | Ben Orner/mlive.com

House Bill 4210, recently passed by the Michigan House of Representatives, expands electronic voting to include military spouses and dependents living overseas. Advocates assert that this enables military families to exercise their voting rights more conveniently. However, election security experts, including C.Jay Coles from Verified Voting, caution against the introduction of the internet into elections, emphasizing the potential risks. Coles warns that if the system is compromised, it could lead to a “crisis of confidence in our entire democracy” and open the door for large-scale manipulation of ballots and vote counts. Critics propose exploring alternatives such as expedited return of physical ballots or providing free postage for military spouses overseas to ensure their voting rights. The bill now awaits review in a Senate committee and the full Senate before potentially becoming law. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has expressed support for the bill. Read Article

Michigan: Threatening election workers could soon be felony | Ben Orner/mlive.com

Michigan State Rep. Kara Hope is advocating for legislation, House Bills 4129 and 4130, aimed at safeguarding election workers from harassment and intimidation. These bills, which have gained momentum with Democrats holding a majority in both legislative chambers, propose making it a felony to intimidate or obstruct the duties of election officials, with penalties including up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. The legislation, motivated by concerns over increasing political tensions and threats against election workers, is viewed as crucial for the smooth operation of elections. Read Article