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Republicans continue to push election conspiracies at Trump-backed Michigan rally

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Several Donald Trump-backed elected officials and candidates for state office gathered on the steps of the Michigan state Capitol building Tuesday to demand a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election, repeating many of the same unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud that the former president and his supporters have been pushing for almost a year.

A supporter of former U.S. President Donald Trump holds a sign outside the Michigan State Capitol to demand an audit of 2020 election votes, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S. October 12, 2021. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
A supporter of former President Donald Trump holds a sign outside the Michigan state Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday to demand an audit of 2020 election votes. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

The event’s organizers had initially expected around 100 people to show up for the rally, but Michigan state police said Monday they were preparing for a much larger crowd after former President Donald Trump urged his supporters to attend. According to a report from Sinclair Broadcast Group, roughly 300 to 400 people were present at the state capitol in Lansing when the rally began at noon.

Trump had promoted the event in an Oct. 8 statement, writing, “Big Michigan Rally coming up on Oct. 12th, on the Capitol steps in Lansing, where Patriots will demand a Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam. The Voter Fraud is beyond what anyone can believe. Anyone who cares about our Great Country should attend, because unless we look to the past and fix what happened, we won’t have a future or a Country.”

Protesters call for a
Protesters outside the Michigan state Capitol on Tuesday. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Three Trump-endorsed candidates spoke at the rally: Kristina Karamo, who is running for secretary of state; Matt DePerno, who is running for attorney general; and state Rep. Steve Carra, who is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican who voted for Trump’s impeachment following the violence on Jan. 6. State Reps. John Reilly and Daire Rendon also spoke, with Rendon saying she’s seen “a lot of evidence” of fraud. Rendon was reportedly wearing a “Q” button at the event, representing the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Other speakers included former Dominion Voting Systems contractor Mellissa Carone, whose outlandish and erroneous claims about alleged ballot fraud in Detroit became the subject of a "Saturday Night Live" skit after she appeared alongside Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani at a Michigan House panel last December. Carone is running in 2022 for the Michigan House seat currently held by Reilly, who can no longer seek reelection because of term limits. Despite being introduced at Tuesday’s rally as a Trump-backed candidate, Carone clarified that she has yet to receive the former president’s coveted endorsement.

Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside the Michigan State Capitol to demand an audit of 2020 election votes, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S. October 12, 2021. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Trump supporters outside the Michigan state Capitol on Tuesday. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Despite no credible evidence of electoral fraud, Republican politicians and activists across the country have been pushing for “forensic audits,” like the one that occurred this year in Arizona’s Maricopa County, in a quixotic attempt to overturn the November election. The Maricopa review, which was undertaken by pro-Trump partisans, eventually concluded that Joe Biden had won the county. Liz Harris, an Arizona Republican who supported the audit, was among the speakers at Tuesday’s rally in Michigan.

While Michigan’s electoral votes went to Trump in 2016, Biden narrowly won the state in 2020. In March, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that the state had completed 250 audits, all of which “confirmed the integrity and accuracy of the 2020 general election.”

Supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside the Michigan State Capitol to demand an audit of 2020 election votes, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S. October 12, 2021. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
A Trump supporter at the rally. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Numerous Republican lawmakers and candidates have refused to admit that Trump lost the election in the months since far-right rioters attempted to stop the certification of Biden’s victory on Jan. 6. An August Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that 66 percent of Republicans said "the election was rigged and stolen from Trump," while just 18 percent said "Joe Biden won fair and square." Those results are in line with a September CNN poll that found 78 percent of Republicans saying Biden did not win, and 54 percent saying there was solid evidence to support their belief despite no such evidence existing.

Across the country, Republicans who say the election was stolen are contesting secretary of state races. The position typically denotes a state’s top election official, raising fears of what might happen if the offices are won by candidates who say the last election was illegitimate. According to Reuters, 10 of the 15 Republican candidates for secretary of state in five key battleground states are still questioning whether Trump actually lost.

At a House Oversight Committee hearing last week, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., was asked who won the election in Arizona and replied, "We don't know. There are a lot of issues with this election that took place.”

"There's the problem," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who asked Biggs the question. "Donald Trump refused to accept the results, and unfortunately we have one of the world's great political parties, which has followed him off of the ledge of this electoral lunacy, and it's dangerous for democracy."

A supporter of former U.S. President Donald Trump holds a sign as others gather outside the Michigan State Capitol to demand an audit of 2020 election votes, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S. October 12, 2021. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
An attendee at the rally. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

At that same hearing, the Republican vice chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors expressed concern that the review was just the start.

“This is without a doubt the biggest threat to our democracy in my lifetime,” Bill Gates, the vice chairman, said. “If elected officials continue to choose party over truth, then these procedures are going to continue on these privately funded, government-backed attacks on legitimate elections.”

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, the second-highest ranking House Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, refused to say the election wasn’t stolen. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was the third-highest ranking Republican in the House until she was ousted from the position earlier this year after voting for Trump’s second impeachment, criticized Scalise for his comments.

“Millions of Americans have been sold a fraud that the election was stolen,” Cheney tweeted. “Republicans have a duty to tell the American people that this is not true. Perpetuating the Big Lie is an attack on the core of our constitutional republic.”

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a damning report revealing new details about how Trump and his allies attempted to pressure the Justice Department into overturning his defeat in the 2020 election. The report was the result of an eight-month investigation into Trump’s efforts to undermine the outcome of the election, culminating in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

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