Michigan elections director warns ballot proposal challengers to cease harassment, threatening behavior

Recounts estimated to cost tax payers around $1M

In a letter this week, the head of the Michigan Bureau of Elections used his strongest language yet, telling the attorney for the group behind recount efforts across the state that recent disruptions will not be tolerated.

Such language included: “Bureau staff will direct the removal of challengers as necessary.” “They may not behave in a disruptive, disorderly, or abusive manner.” “They run the risk of hindering or delaying the conduct of the recount.”

The letter, signed by Michigan’s Elections Director Jonathan Brater, was sent in response to a string of disruptions as recounts are underway. During those recounts, challengers have tried to touch ballots, go into restricted areas and even accuse recount volunteers of criminal behavior, at times calling in police, according to the letter and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

In one instance in Marquette, a challenger had to be removed.

Last week, clerks’ reports of disruption from across the state got the attention of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who said they were looking into possible criminal activity on the part of challengers, and that they had already been contacted by the Department of State.

The behavior has worried Benson about the safety of election workers and volunteers working the recount after two years of increasingly violent threats toward those who run the state’s elections.

“This is part of these efforts were seeing to harass and challenge election officials,” Benson said. “This scenario is part of a larger effort in which misinformation and lies that people have been fed for years now are becoming weaponized and are directly threatening the lives and the safety of everyday people who simply want to make elections work for everyone.”

The recount was brought in part by the right-wing group Election Integrity Force, which is based in Troy, along with petitioner Jerome Allen. The group and Allen asked for recounts in 43 counties in various precincts. However, their request didn’t include enough precincts to overturn the election, even if there were anything nefarious to find.

According to Department of State spokesperson Jake Rollow, 34 of the 43 counties have already finished their recounts in what is expected to be costly work. Via text, Rollow said while the recounts were requested by EIF and Allen, most of the financial burden will be on taxpayers.

“We estimate it will likely cost taxpayers up to $1 million. EIF will likely end up paying less than $100 [thousand],” Rollow said.

Local 4 did reach out for a comment on the letter but did not get a comment back. The recounts are expected to wrap up by week’s end.

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About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.