Michigan GOP: Secretary of State Trying to Delete Election Data Amid Audit Calls

December 4, 2020 Updated: December 4, 2020

The Michigan GOP on Friday raised concerns about a memo sent by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that “is pushing for the mass deletion of election data,” although a spokesperson for the secretary’s office later said the process is routine.

The GOP said Benson’s office told clerks in Michigan counties to “delete Electronic Poll Book software and associated files” amid calls to audit the election while flagging it was concerning.

They were likely referring to a Dec. 1 memo (pdf) from the Michigan Bureau of Elections, which is overseen by Benson’s office, that states “[Electronic Poll Book] software and associated files must be deleted from all devices by the seventh calendar day following the final canvass and certification of the election (November 30, 2020) unless a petition for recount has been filed and the recount has not been completed, a post-election audit is planned but has not yet been completed, or the deletion of the data has been stayed by an order of the court or the Secretary of State.”

The memo was referring to Electronic Poll Book software and files contained on laptops and USB drives using during the election.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Department of State, in an email, said that “electronic poll book data, which is removed after every election to safeguard personal identifying information, and is separately preserved on paper records, is not needed to conduct any reasonable type of audit that could conceivably be requested, because paper versions of the pollbook are always maintained and used for audits.”

The spokesperson added that any suggestions otherwise “are completely false,” while noting that the GOP “is choosing to ignore these truths in a press release demonstrates they have no interest in preserving the integrity of our elections or democracy.” The spokesperson did not provide an update on the state’s audit process but noted that a memo from 2018 directs the electronic poll book data to be deleted.

But the Michigan Republican Party flagged the memo and process as concerning.

“Secretary Benson’s move to request the deletion of election data amidst bipartisan calls for an audit is just another example of her putting partisan politics over what’s best for Michigan,” said Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox said in a statement Friday.

They noted that due to alleged statewide irregularities, an audit is necessary.

Cox stated: “With election irregularities rampant across the state, it is vital that we have this audit before any election data is deleted. Secretary Benson’s move to delete this data before an audit raises a serious question, what are the Democrats hiding?”

Several weeks ago, Benson, a Democrat, said the state would carry out a “risk-limiting audit.”

“Following the certification of Michigan’s elections, our statewide risk-limiting audit will be paired with comprehensive local audits,” she wrote for the Detroit Free-Press. “A risk-limiting audit is the most statistically reliable method of evaluating the tabulation of ballots in an election. It involves drawing a large random sample of ballots in any given jurisdiction to confirm that, when ballots are visually inspected, the outcomes closely match the results reported by tabulation machines.”

The Michigan GOP has not immediately responded to a request for comment.

During the week, several witnesses—including a poll worker in Detroit and GOP poll challengers—testified in front of a Michigan State Legislature hearing, alleging improprieties and fraud were rampant there. President Donald Trump’s team, citing the Constitution, argued that the legislature should vote to call up their own electors to the Electoral College.

A spokesman for Michigan’s Secretary of State told The Epoch Times earlier this week that the GOP poll watchers and others who testified in front of the Michigan Legislature this week displayed a “lack of knowledge” about the vote-counting process and promoted “conspiracy theories.” The office has said there is no evidence of voter fraud or irregularities that would overturn the election.