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AG's Office Responds to Legislative Subpoena in Elections Probe
November 16, 2020
LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is responding on behalf of the Michigan Bureau of Elections to a wide-ranging legislative subpoena for documents surrounding the election.
The Senate and House Oversight committees issued the subpoena Nov. 7, asking the Bureau of Elections to produce documents focused on events leading up to the Nov. 3 general election. The subpoena broadly asks for “all documents and communications” relating to the Bureau’s efforts to inform residents of their right to vote by mail and how they could register to vote. The committees demanded that the documents be provided in only nine calendar days (six business days).
The short timeframe given for the Bureau to reply is “unduly burdensome, especially considering the important duties the Bureau is currently performing to ensure that Michigan’s election results are timely and properly certified under state law,” the letter states.
Though it has several significant legal objections to the subpoena, the Bureau – in an effort to promote cooperation and transparency – agreed to produce and provided nearly 1,100 pages of documents today and will continue to provide documents on a rolling basis until complete. At the same time, the Bureau continues to support bipartisan boards of canvassers as they review the processes and results of the election, which drew ballots from 5.5 million citizens, more than ever before in Michigan history.
“Michigan’s elections have been fair and transparent,” Nessel said. “It is time to set the politics aside and focus on moving our state and country forward together. We hope the Bureau’s response to the Legislature’s subpoena today will help do that.”
“The nearly 1,100 pages of documents provided today illustrate our commitment to transparency and cooperation, despite the questionable legality of the legislative committees’ subpoena and the naked partisan agenda behind their action,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “The documents underscore what millions of Michiganders and thousands of clerks and election workers already know and experienced first-hand: that our elections are secure and the results are an accurate reflection of the will of the people. I hope legislators will now cease their meritless attempt to falsely denigrate our elections simply because they are disappointed by the results, and instead join my office and many local clerks in assuring the public that in this election, every valid vote was counted and every voice was heard.”
Under law, a legislative subpoena is only valid if it serves a legislative purpose. The committees failed to clearly describe that purpose in the subpoena, though legislators have stated in a separate letter to Director of Elections Jonathan Brater that their inquiry is in response to “numerous allegations regarding the integrity of the November 3 election.”
However, attempting to challenge or invalidate the results of an election cannot be considered a proper legislative purpose of any committee of the House or Senate, the Attorney General’s office notes in its letter, as the Legislature plays no role in the actual administration of an election or the recount and challenge procedures that may apply.
Michigan has checks-and-balances in place to ensure the election results are complete and accurate, and processes that allow a person or candidate to challenge those results through court or a lawful recount.