BELLAIRE — Antrim County officials assembled outside the county building Sunday morning, entering together in response to a court order allowing a forensic examination of 22 voting machines.
The order, signed by 13th Circuit Court Chief Judge Kevin A. Elsenheimer, granted a local man’s request to take photographs of voting machine tabulators after he complained in court of election irregularities resulting in loss of his constitutional rights.
An attorney for William Bailey, a Central Lake realtor and member of the county’s planning commission, filed a motion characterizing the Nov. 3 election in Antrim county as “fraudulently manipulated,” that certification of the results was “replete with dishonesty and illegalities” and requesting immediate access to voting machines in order to prevent the destruction of evidence.
No evidence of fraud, nor plans by anyone to destroy evidence, has been presented, court records show.
Bailey did not return a call seeking comment. Previous reports from Antrim County officials stated Bailey was working with a team associated with Rudy W. Giuliani, personal attorney for President Donald Trump. Commission Chair Ed Boettcher said Sunday he was told Giuliani was not directly involved.
“We stand with Sheryl,” Boettcher said, of clerk Sheryl Guy who has been publicly criticized and received threats regarding a software management error that initially assigned votes cast for Trump to challenger and now President-Elect Joe Biden.
“Everyone was cordial and if there is an investigation to be conducted, that will ensure we had a safe and secure election, that’s what we all want,” Boetthcher said.
Giuliani is the former mayor of New York City who joined President Donald Trump’s legal team in 2018, and his claims of widespread election fraud have been repeatedly rebuffed by lawmakers, the courts and recently Attorney General William Barr. His claims intensified after the president put Giuliani in charge of his post-election legal challenges.
“Due diligence is what is happening here,” Guy said, when reached by phone during the examination. “I’m doing what I need to do to prove how important it is to have a fair, accurate and complete election.”
Bailey, his attorney Matthew DePerno of Portage, along with political operatives who arrived Saturday night from Washington, D.C., used cellphones and a camera mounted on a tri-pod to take photographs and video of the voting machines, Guy said.
The process was expected to last as long as eight hours — with Guy, Deputy Clerk Connie Wing, IT Director Valerie Craft, Deputy Administrator Jeremy Scott, County Commission Chair Ed Boettcher, Commissioners Terry VanAlstine and Christian Marcus, attorney Haider Kazim and Sheriff Department officers Jim Janisse and Ed Smith, were on hand to observe the process on behalf of the county, Guy said.
Guy, who previously said she’d received threatening telephone messages her staff referred to local law enforcement, said she had doubts about her own safety as she contemplated walking into the county building.
Seeing her colleagues and local law enforcement ready to accompany her into the building when she arrived was reassuring, she said.
“We came into town, we lined up as a group, there were officers with us, and I felt very confident in my safety and security,” Guy said. “There were a lot of additional cars in the parking lot but no disturbances whatsoever at all.”
The order follows an ex parte motion filed Nov. 23 by DePerno on behalf of Bailey, the resulting oral arguments held Dec. 3, and hinges on a Nov. 3 vote over a proposed Central Lake marijuana ordinance.
There were 524 votes cast and the initial tally showed a tie — 262 for and 262 against — which meant the proposal failed. The votes were retabulated Nov. 6, three ballots were damaged in the process court records show, resulting in the proposal passing by a single vote. Bailey argues the damaged ballots allowed the proposal to pass, negating his vote and infringing on his constitutional rights.
An argument Judge Elsenheimer said, “met the requirement for irreparable harm” necessary for ex parte — or immediate — court action, which the judge signed Friday at 5:51 p.m.
The images captured by Bailey, DePerno and Washington, D.C., campaign surrogates may not be distributed or manipulated without an order from the court, Elsenheimer said.
Boettcher said he was told to expect results of the examination within 48 hours.