BELLAIRE — One of the last active lawsuits anywhere in the U.S. challenging the validity of the 2020 election came to a halt Tuesday, when a judge agreed to dismiss the Antrim County case.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office represented Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, applauded the judge’s decision.
“Today’s ruling in Antrim County should be the nail in the coffin for any remaining conspiracy theories surrounding the outcome of the Nov. 3 general election,” Nessel said.
“Time and time again, people have filed frivolous lawsuits in an attempt to undermine the integrity of our democratic process in Michigan,” Nessel said. “I applaud the Court for correctly concluding that there was no relief that could properly be granted on the claims presented.”
Assistant Attorney General Erik Grill submitted a brief in 13th Circuit Court in support of dismissal, on behalf of Benson, who intervened in the case after a Central Lake Township man sued Antrim County on Nov. 23.
Bill Bailey accused the county of voter fraud and of violating his constitutional rights after he claimed fraud inherent in the county’s Dominion Voting Systems election equipment “diluted” his vote.
Court records show Bailey highlighted passage of a Central Lake Village ballot proposal, allowing a single marijuana retailer as evidence of fraud, though Bailey lives in the township, not the village, and could not have voted on the issue.
Bailey’s attorney, Matthew DePerno of Portage, sought to expand the case and argued no audit of the county’s November 2020 election results had yet occurred, but 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer disagreed.
“To be clear, that audit is not what the plaintiff would have liked,” Elsenheimer said. “However it did occur, and it appears to have been done so pursuant to authority set forth.”
The case stemmed from acknowledged human error by Antrim County Clerk Sheryl Guy and staffers in her office, after voting machine software was not properly updated following some last-minute ballot changes on down ballot races.
The error initially caused about 2,000 votes cast for then-President Donald Trump to be mistakenly assigned to then-challenger Joe Biden, which Guy said she corrected prior to the election results being certified.
Trump won Antrim County by a large margin, receiving 9,748 votes to Biden’s 5,960 votes.
Nevertheless, conspiracy theorists, Trump supporters and the former president seized on the mistake, sharing outlandish falsehoods and accusing Dominion of providing election equipment pre-programmed for fraud, accusations the company repeatedly denied.
Trump political operatives, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and MyPillow Chief Executive Officer Mike Lindell, made similar accusations of fraud during national media appearances and have all been sued by Dominion for defamation.
DePerno has received a cease and desist letter from Dominion, as previously reported.
Elsenheimer also discussed the results of a Dec. 17 hand ballot recount of the county’s presidential election. That examination was conducted by the state’s Bureau of Elections staff and local volunteer poll workers, and livestreamed inside the Kearney Township Hall.
Benson also directed her staff conduct more than 250 statewide audits in January and February, SOS records show, which Elsenheimer referenced in his decision.
DePerno had argued Proposition 3, passed in 2018, gave Bailey and any legal Michigan voter the right to request an audit of every race on the ballot — an assertion Elsenheimer disputed.
Elsenheimer ruled the court had already provided all the relief available under the law.
“There is no right either in the constitutional section or the statute for the independent audit that Mr. Bailey seeks,” Elsenheimer said. “A petitioner does not get to choose his own criteria. The legislature has given that authority to the Secretary of State.”
Grill, representing the Secretary of State’s office, had argued as much in his brief in support of the dismissal.
DePerno did not respond to specific questions about the dismissal or whether he plans to appeal, but did share a tweet to his 21,000 followers about an hour after the judge made his ruling.
“Apparently the SOS can conduct the audit in any way she determines even if she is actively part of the fraud,” DePerno tweeted.
The judge stayed all discovery in the case, pending a possible appeal.
A motion by DePerno, seeking to add Guy and Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater as defendants was not argued, also pending appeal the judge said.
“I am very grateful for the judge’s ruling,” Guy said. “I’m also grateful to the taxpayers who stood by me. This is a good day.”
Guy estimated the county has so far spent about $60,000 on legal fees related to the case.
Grand Rapids attorney Allan Vander Laan represented the county at the hearing Tuesday, after attorney Haider Kazim, who argued the case since its inception, filed a motion last week to withdraw.
Neither Vander Laan, Kazim nor Dominion representatives returned calls seeking comment.