Legislative Oversight Committees Assume Subpoena Authority in Election Investigations

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by Bruce Walker

 

The Michigan House and Senate Oversight Committees are assuming authority to issue subpoenas, administer oaths and examine books and records related to the 2020 election.

The committees immediately proceeded to issue subpoenas to election clerks in Detroit and Livonia. Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey and Livonia Clerk Susan Nash have until the end of business on Jan. 12 to turn over documents pertaining to their respective elections.

“This is about people, not politics,” Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall, said in a statement.

“The electoral votes for Michigan have been submitted. But people in Michigan still have questions about their state’s elections and those questions deserve answers. I fear we are headed for more distrust in the future if people are denied clarity and transparency from officials who head up the process,” Hall said.

Rep. Tristan Cole, R-Mancelona, agreed with Hall, stating that Michigan voters are left confused and sometimes angry at the unanswered questions surrounding voting irregularities and allegations of fraud.

“I’ve heard from an incredible number of people who are worried about fraud and have lost faith in the free and fair elections upon which our country is built,” Cole said in a statement.

“Regardless of our political affiliations, we should all agree that we must do more to restore the public’s trust in our voting procedures. We can begin that process by conducting a thorough and complete investigation that gets to the bottom of these reports and delivers the answers voters deserve,” Cole said.

“The Oversight Committee needs full access to accurate information to make sure that happens,” he added.

It is unclear whether either committee will issue a subpoena to Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. On Wednesday, Hall announced he had received a response from Benson in which she declined his earlier invitation to testify before the committee.

In her letter, dated Tuesday, Dec. 15, and posted on Twitter, Benson said she would not participate.

“I am aware of the hearings the Committee has conducted, and am concerned that contrary to your desire to ‘get to the bottom’ of elections questions, they are instead amplifying already debunked conspiracy theories and previously disproven claims of people who lack basic knowledge of election administration, and in doing so undermining the integrity of the election and wounding our democracy,” she wrote.

Hall called Benson’s refusal a “flip-flop” in a press statement.

“Secretary of State Benson said she would be willing to testify before the people’s representatives when it made a good talking point for her and got her good press,” Hall said.

“But when the rubber met the road and it came time to answer questions about her work, she refused to take questions. Benson’s flip-flop makes it clear she would rather hide under a rock than help the people of Michigan build trust in their state’s election process going forward,” Hall added.

“The House and Senate Oversight Committees have previously heard testimony from multiple county clerks from both parties on what they saw and what can be done to better Michigan’s election system in the future – and those conversations and ideas were extremely constructive and helpful,” Hall said.

“Our committee would like to have similar discussions with Secretary of State Benson, and I am disappointed she is brushing aside that opportunity while making excuses and playing cheap political games.”

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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.

 

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