Michigan election clerk slams members of state legislature for 'pandering to lies' with voter suppression

Michigan election clerk slams members of state legislature for 'pandering to lies' with voter suppression
Gretchen Whitmer in 2018, Wikimedia Commons

During a Democratic online fundraiser on Monday, June 28, former President Barack Obama slammed former President Donald Trump for continuing to push 'the Big Lie' and make the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud — a claim that even former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr denounced as "bullshit" during a series of bombshell interviews with The Atlantic's Jonathan D. Karl during the 2021 spring. The more that Trump has pushed the Big Lie, the more that election workers have suffered threats and harassment — and one such worker, Michael Siegrist, speaks out in an op-ed published by Bridge Michigan on June 28. Siegrist, election clerk in Canton Township, Michigan, candidly describes the ways in which his job has become more difficult.

"While it's an honor and privilege to serve my community as an election clerk," Siegrist explains, "I can no longer say that it is fun. Abundant disinformation, personal threats and an onslaught of big-money-funded anti-voter bills moving through the Michigan Legislature threaten what the majority of Michiganders want: the freedom to vote and an opportunity to build a democracy that works for us all."

Siegrist adds, "Instead of pandering to lies to secure power, the Legislature has an opportunity to build off the successes of the 2020 election. They must make profound and lasting changes voters want, and reject the vitriol that has gripped our democracy. The 2020 election was safe, free, and fair — and by no accident. Voters, clerks and advocates alike ensured the pandemic would not derail our democracy."

Michigan was among the five states that Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020; the others were Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin. And Trump has repeatedly made the false claim that he was the real winner in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plot by White nationalists and far-right militia extremists in 2020. The fact that the political climate has been incredibly intense in Michigan in 2020 and 2021 isn't lost on election workers.

Siegrist, who sits on the board of directors of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, stresses that the 2020 election was quite secure in his state. Although he never mentions Trump by name in his op-ed, he clearly has no use for the Big Lie and the voter suppression bills it has inspired.

"Michigan's election system includes a number of safeguards that kept our ballots secure, ensured that no one voted twice, and provided voters the option to choose how to cast their ballots in the way that works best for them," Siegrist writes. "In Canton Township, where I serve, we relied on safeguards like early absentee voting and ballot drop boxes to ensure social distancing and reduce the number of people in the building on Election Day; without dampening turnout. Not only did it work, it was popular."

Siegrist criticized members of the Michigan State Legislature who are trying to make voting more difficult in the midwestern state.

"The Legislature insists on going backwards," Siegrist complains. "Instead of putting up barriers to silence our voices, the Legislature must give voters the option to insert their ballots directly into a tabulator during at least two weeks of early voting before Election Day. It's critical that lawmakers also protect and expand the availability of drop boxes, as well as set uniform standards for their use. Michigan has over 1500 election officials administering elections for vastly different communities with different budgetary and staffing constraints, so policies on voting options must be flexible."


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