It appears that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is trying to get rid of evidence. She actually thinks she can justify a seriously sketchy memo directing all Michigan counties to “delete their election data.” The state’s Republicans are setting off alarm bells. One county sheriff has filed suit to stop it but the fate of the crucial evidence hangs in the balance.
Memo is ‘concerning, to say the least’
When the Michigan GOP got word of a memo published December 1, they called it “concerning, to say the least.” The Republicans are demanding an audit and specifically requested all the evidence to be preserved.
The Secretary of State is rushing to erase anything that vaguely slips through the wording of the orders and, through her office, “insists that such a process is routine following an election.” The process may be routine but this election was certainly not and such destructive and irreversible measures should not be taken so cavalierly. Jocelyn Benson actually ordered every county in Michigan to “delete Electronic Poll Book software and associated files.”
According to the memo, all data “must be deleted from all devices by the seventh calendar day following the final canvass and certification of the election.” Since the certification came on November 30, the deadline to erase the data was Monday. It’s not clear as of Tuesday if any of that data has already been destroyed.
The only data the state was “required” to save are the ones where “a petition for recount has been filed and the recount has not been completed.” Other reasons to hold the data are if “a post-election audit is planned but has not yet been completed, or the deletion of the data has been stayed by an order of the court or the Secretary of State.”
In the wake of this year’s troubled and highly contentious election, Secretary of State Benson should have taken it upon herself to “preserve the evidence.” Instead, she’s rushing to burn it.
Republicans are furious about the memo. “Secretary Benson’s move to request the deletion of election data amidst bipartisan calls for an audit is just another example of her putting partisan politics over what’s best for Michigan,” asserts Laura Cox, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman. Irregularities are “rampant across the state,” necessitating a statewide audit before any election data is deleted.”
Republicans rush to stop the shredding
Right after the election on November 6, Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey issued a directive “which served as notice of the Michigan Legislature’s plans to conduct an inquiry into the general election.”
The memo shows that Benson ignored it. “Because of that inquiry, Detroit city clerk and BOE offices were directed to preserve certain materials, including relevant electronic information. The inquiry also demands all surveillance video recordings that were taken at the TCF Center in Detroit from Nov. 3-5 be kept.”
Representative Matt Hall points out that “it is concerning this memo went out after a letter was delivered asking these entities to preserve evidence. As a result, we want an assurance that this information is being preserved.” GOP Chairwoman Cox adds, “Secretary Benson’s move to delete this data before an audit raises a serious question, what are the Democrats hiding?”
The Sheriff in Barry County, Dar Leaf, was infuriated when he heard about the memo. He calls it voter fraud. He even went to court and filed an “application for a restraining order” demanding that clerks in at least his county be barred from deleting any election data. “After data is deleted, it would not be possible to conduct a forensic investigation.”
According to his lawsuit, “The State of Michigan is conducting a very limited audit of cities, townships, and municipalities. Further, the audit will simply recount potentially fraudulent, or illegal ballots, and will not reveal the systematic attempts at mass fraud throughout the State of Michigan and United States of America. Moreover, the evidence mandated to be deleted or destroyed will not be available for forensic examination once destroyed preventing civil and/or criminal investigations.”