LANSING — Election results in Antrim County continue to spawn court action and high-profile tweeting even as state Republicans upheld the process.
President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell both cited the small northern Michigan county, even as the Republican head of the state Senate oversight committee attributed a temporary mistake in the vote tally to “human error,” not fraud.
“The simple answer given by the clerk of Antrim County still stands,” said Michigan Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, in a statement Tuesday.
McBroom, who headed a State Senate Oversight Committee that took testimony from Rudy Giuliani earlier this month, stood by the state’s process and the validity of a Bureau of Elections hand recount on Dec. 17.
“These errors were quickly discovered and rectified by the protective systems our state has built in to verify and protect election integrity and were further verified when a hand count was completed.”
The error stemmed from an incomplete software update by Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy, a Republican, who has repeatedly acknowledged that actions taken by her staff led to about 2,000 votes for Trump being mistakenly — and temporarily — tallied for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
The mistake was caught shortly after Guy released full unofficial results at about 4 a.m. on Nov. 4, but it spurred many, and ongoing, attempts to challenge the state’s overall election results in a presidential bid to stay in office.
Bill Bailey, a realtor and member of Antrim County’s Planning Commission, filed suit Nov. 23, accusing the county of election fraud and of violating his constitutional rights. Statements made in court by Bailey’s attorney, Matthew Deperno, revealed a strategy to use the case to discredit the state’s election results.
“We believe the results in Antrim County are uncertifiable,” argued DePerno in front of 13th Circuit Court Chief Judge Kevin Elsenheimer. “The only option we believe would be to decertify the election in Antrim County. And if that happens, under U.S. Constitution, Article 1 Section 4, the Michigan results must go to the state legislature.”
Elsenheimer signed an order for a forensic examination of the county’s voting precinct tabulators Dec. 4, which took place on the weekend of Dec. 6.
A hand recount and audit were announced by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson soon after, and she was added to the suit on Dec. 14 as a named defendant.
The forensic exam resulted in a 23-page report, issued by Russell James Ramsland of Texas-based Allied Security Operations Group, LLC, on behalf of Bailey and DePerno, much of which has since been debunked.
Ramsland previously made inaccurate claims about Detroit election results and mistook voting jurisdictions in Minnesota for Michigan in court filings. Pushback was swift from both elections officials and the makers of the Dominion voting systems.
Ryan Macias, a former U.S. Election Commission acting director, released a point-by-point rebuttal saying the report was intended to spread misinformation. Dominion CEO John Poulosa testified under oath Dec. 10 in front of the State Senate Oversight Committee.
“The results of the hand recount in Antrim County confirmed what we already knew and have communicated under oath: our machines accurately tabulate votes,” Dominion released in a statement. “We are proud certifications and audits across the country have repeatedly shown the accuracy, transparency and reliability of Dominion’s systems. We are grateful to serve as one of Michigan’s election technology providers.”
Jonathan Brater, director of the state’s Bureau of Elections, filed a declaration under oath in 13th Circuit Court as part of the Bailey case, debunking some of what was stated in the report.
The hand recount, held inside Antrim County’s Kearney Township Hall in Bellaire and open to the public, was livestreamed by Bureau of Elections staff.
Local volunteer poll auditors were used and results, which found a net gain of 12 votes for President Trump from among about 16,000 votes cast, were announced the same day.
The additional votes for the president show a .08 percent error in the county’s presidential election — not the 68 percent falsely stated in Ramsland’s report.
But DePerno, of Portage, shared a screen shot Dec. 20 on social media, which portended to be a comparison between Antrim County’s original vote tally with the results of the Dec. 17 hand recount, but used instead unofficial errors never certified.
The tweet was shared more than 10,000 times, including by Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor — indicted in federal court and later pardoned by the president — who in recent days suggested the U.S. military could be used to rerun the election.
Flynn told his 1.1 million followers DePerno had “found the truth” and to “read the Antrim County report.”
The report’s disputed results were also referenced in a Dec. 13 letter to the U.S. Supreme Court, signed by Sidney Powell.
The letter to the Supreme Court, signed by Powell and attorneys Howard Kleinhendler of New York and Stefanie Lambert Junttila of Detroit, sought to add the report to the court record, ostensibly for use in any upcoming election-related Supreme Court filings on behalf of the president.
Powell is an appellate attorney from Texas who joined Trump’s legal team and said on conservative talk radio that “hackable” voting machines designed in Venezuela to rig elections in favor of that country’s deceased former ruler, Hugo Chavez, cost the president the election, among other false claims.
Powell also represented Flynn in federal court actions prior to his acceptance of a presidential pardon.
Another legal case making its way through the courts, King v. Whitmer, also has ties to Antrim County and seeks to allege fraud in Michigan’s elections by Dominion Voting Systems. One of the plaintiffs is Antrim County’s Republican Party Chair, Daren Rubingh.
Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday her office will pursue sanctions against Powell and others, for their “intentional misrepresentations” in lawsuits seeking to overturn Michigan election results.
Complicating Antrim’s court case with Bailey is a controversial marijuana proposal, also on the ballot Nov. 3 for residents of the Village of Central Lake. The proposal asked village voters whether they favored allowing a single dispensary within the village limits.
Initial results had the proposal failing in a 262-262 tie. The proposal passed, however, in the corrected certified results, a change Bailey contended in court filings contributed to his constitutional rights being violated.
Research shows Bailey lives in Central Lake Township, not the Village of Central Lake, and therefore could not have cast a ballot for or against the proposal.
These and other issues will be argued in Bailey v. Antrim County, as the case is ongoing. A remote hearing is scheduled in the case Jan. 11 in 13th Circuit Court in front of Elsenheimer.