Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. June 12, 2024.

Editorial: Restricting access to recounts threatens election integrity

Democrats are attempting to limit the ability to challenge election results in what amounts to an overreaction to rejection of the 2020 balloting by some Donald Trump supporters. Their efforts risk further eroding trust of Michigan voters in the integrity of elections.

Nothing that happened four years ago should be used as an excuse to eliminate valid checks and balances against fraud and abuse of the electoral system.

Legislation passed by the Senate in April and now pending in the House would narrow the parameters for ordering a recount of votes in a contested election and would raise the fees associated with a recount. It would also increase penalties for violating election laws governing recounts.

Automatic recounts for votes that fall within narrow margins will still be issued, and petitioners can request a recount on allegations of error.

The aim is to eliminate recounts based on unfounded claims of fraud, as happened in 2020.

The risk is the legislation will discourage legitimate challenges and allow election cheating to go undiscovered.

Suspicion of fraud is not a valid reason for a recount under the proposed bills, nor is contesting the manner by which voters received their ballots. Accusations of fraud would be referred to law enforcement but would not trigger retabulating.

The legislation “makes clear that a recount is not an audit or investigation,” said bill sponsor Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit. “As we all know from four years ago, those words are not interchangeable, and this clarification of the law is important to minimize confusion among voters.”

Suppressing the rights of voters and candidates to question the outcome of elections lends credence to the belief there is something to hide.

That’s particularly true when election laws are undergoing significant changes.

Michigan has already vastly expanded voting access by various means, including keeping polls open for up to a month before Election Day, starting vote counts more than a week before Election Day and broadening absentee voting. Now Democrats want to make it illegal to question how certain votes may be acquired.

Democrats are also pushing a Michigan Voting Rights Act, which would require local governments and state agencies to enact policies to more aggressively ensure voting access to individuals of different racial backgrounds, language minority groups or disabilities.

The legislation was crafted in close cooperation with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office.

But the voting rights legislation extends beyond the federal voting standards and would make clerks vulnerable to legal action for not having equal outcomes for various identity groups.

The plan would force jurisdictions to prove their policies aren’t denying access to individuals of color — which is already federally prohibited — and would create a public database of election and demographic data, among other things.

Another provision would require ballots to be printed in more languages.

These are new costs and burdens local jurisdictions will have to bear at the behest of the secretary of state’s office, which has failed to supply local clerks with the resources they need to implement the previous election law changes.

One reason so many voters have lost faith in the electoral process is the pace at which Democrats are changing election laws, and often to their partisan advantage. Changing laws while restricting the ability to challenge the outcome will further erode trust.

Challenges to the 2020 election did not change the outcome. But they did demonstrate with certainty that results were legitimate. The steps to getting there were disruptive, but necessary.


Iron Mountain Daily News. June 12, 2024.

Editorial: Election conspiracy film pulled — but will its message persist?

The movie “2000 Mules” was praised in 2022 by former President Donald Trump as exposing “great election fraud.” It debuted in May of that year at more than 270 theaters across the United States.

The Associated Press, after reviewing the film, said its producers had relied on “a flawed analysis” of cellphone location data and ballot drop box surveillance footage to claim fraud in the 2020 presidential election. In the years since that first assessment, the film has been more widely debunked.

After issuing an apology last month to a Georgia man depicted in the film as a “ballot mule,” the movie’s publisher has abandoned it. Two years after its release, “2000 Mules” has been discredited.

But will it matter?

Despite criticisms of factual errors in “2000 Mules” that were levied by the AP, factcheck.org, Politifact and the Washington Post, among others, the film had staying power. It enjoyed more than a million viewers in its first two weeks. The Epoch Times declared it an “absolute must-see.”

Ex-President Trump, for his part, hosted a screening at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. At one point, Business Insider reported Trump was unhappy with Fox News for ignoring the film.

“Fox News is no longer Fox News,” Trump was quoted as saying on Gab.com. “They won’t even show or discuss the greatest & most impactful documentary of our time, ‘2000 Mules.’ The Radical Left Democrats are thrilled — They don’t want the TRUTH to get out.”

In June 2022, the Republican Party of Texas screened “2000 Mules” three times during its annual convention, where delegates codified their denial of the 2020 election results into the party’s official platform, according to The Texas Tribune.

That same month, 17 Republican House lawmakers in Michigan — including state Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock — urged state Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate “and bring charges if credible evidence is found” related to Michigan fraud claims in “2000 Mules.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who oversaw the 2020 election, countered that “2000 Mules” was among many “false, baseless allegations” that had emerged since the election.

Recent events support Benson’s view.

On May 31, Salem Media Group issued a statement apologizing to Mark Andrews, acknowledging the Georgia man had been falsely accused of ballot fraud in “2000 Mules.”

As reported by the AP, the film includes surveillance video showing Andrews, his face blurred, putting five ballots in a drop box in Lawrenceville, an Atlanta suburb, as a voiceover by conservative pundit and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza says: “What you are seeing is a crime. These are fraudulent votes.”

A state investigation, however, found that Andrews was not a mule illegally putting ballots into drop boxes. He was dropping off ballots for himself, his wife and their three adult children, who all lived at the same address. That is legal in Georgia. There was no evidence of wrongdoing, investigators concluded.

Andrews was publicly exonerated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and Georgia State Elections Board on May 17, 2022.

Unsurprisingly, Andrews filed a lawsuit against D’Souza and others in October 2022. Last week, after reaching a settlement, Salem Media Group was dismissed as a defendant. Andrews’ case is still active against D’Souza, D’Souza Media LLC, True the Vote, Inc. and others, according to Courtney Cohn of Democracy Docket.

Video surveillance footage used in the movie captured Andrews’ SUV with his license plate, the lawsuit says. Ballot mules are also accused in the film of participating in riots and committing other violent acts. Andrews contends he and his family have been subject to violent threats.

Salem settled the lawsuit brought by Andrews for an undisclosed “significant” amount, National Public Radio reported. Salem, in its May 31 statement, said it had removed the film from its platforms and there would be no future distribution.

“Better late than never,” the Wall Street Journal said in a June 5 opinion piece that described “2000 Mules” as a “Trumpian fantasy mockumentary.”

What remains disturbing is that “2000 Mules” was promoted and elevated by Trump, Michigan lawmakers and others well past the time that they knew — or should have known — better. It’s taken the slow, arduous arm-twisting of a lawsuit to finally bring wider attention to the truth.

On June 1, the day after Salem Media’s apology to Andrews, Trump had a 75-minute interview with Will Cain, Rachel Campos-Duffy and Pete Hegseth of “Fox and Friends Weekend.” The subject of “2000 Mules” never came up.

Which is part of the reason that, in the end, Salem’s retraction won’t reach all of the people who were persuaded in some way by the film’s false depiction of election fraud. Unfortunately, the updated message will never be spread as widely, pushed as strongly and loudly, as “2000 Mules” was in 2022.

Voters — especially those who doubt the election system, perhaps bolstered by this film — have a right to know. News outlets, especially those that promoted “2000 Mules” — have an obligation to get that retraction to their viewers.

Question is, will they?