On Wednesday, a federal lawsuit filed against the Michigan secretary of state revealed the state’s voter rolls potentially include more than 25,000 dead people, including names of more than 20,000 individuals who have been dead for more than a decade.
In the lawsuit filed by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, or PILF, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to election integrity, the group alleges that the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, headed by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, violated Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. That federal law requires states to “conduct a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names” of voters who have died.
In its 20-page complaint, the PILF detailed efforts it had made beginning in the run-up to the 2020 election to ensure Michigan voter rolls did not include deceased individuals. After obtaining data from the state in early 2020 and then hiring a data analysis expert who cross-checked the data against commercial databases and information obtained from the Social Security Administration, the PILF determined the current Michigan rolls included approximately tens of thousands of individuals who appeared deceased.
After providing that information to the Michigan secretary of state, the PILF re-ran the data at several junctions to determine if Benson had addressed the problem, but 94 percent of the individuals identified remain on the official rolls. Yet when the PILF sought to inspect the state’s records under the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, Michigan’s secretary of state refused them access.
Further investigation by the PILF revealed evidence indicating 334 individuals had registered to vote after their deaths. “Without further inquiry,” the nonprofit’s claim says, “there is no way to know for certain whether these post-death registrations are the result of identity theft, data input error, or for some other reasons.”
The PILF’s discovery merits “investigation and action,” the plaintiff alleged, noting that the same issue arose in Pennsylvania shortly before the November 2020 election. Also later, “in early 2021, a Pennsylvania widower was indicted for allegedly impersonating his wife by registering to vote after she died and requesting an absentee ballot.” The deceased wife in that case was one of the 100 names the PILF had discovered and provided to Pennsylvania officials.
It will be some time before last week’s lawsuit filed by the PILF against Michigan will result in concrete steps to ensure the voting rolls do not include dead people. But that is just the skin of the problem, as demonstrated by a press release Michigan’s secretary of state issued in January 2021. In it, she wrote of an additional 177,000 voter registrations slated for cancellation because the individuals appeared to have moved from their registration address.
How many of those individuals voted illegally in 2020? Given what has been discovered in Georgia since last November’s presidential election—that enough illegal votes were cast in the state to reach Joe Biden’s margin of victory—it seems likely that some portion of those 177,000 votes were also cast illegally.
The problem over our election system does not begin and end, however, with inflated and inaccurate voting rolls, which permit untold illegal and fraudulent voting. Rather, as Michigan’s next-door neighbor Wisconsin exposed over the last two weeks, the problem runs bone-deep—all the way to the election officials charged with ensuring fair and honest elections.
There, the Racine County Sheriff’s Office revealed for the nation that the Wisconsin Election Commission illegally (and possibly criminally) directed municipalities to violate the election code’s mandate that special voting deputies conduct elections at residential facilities, such as nursing homes. Also last week, after Wisconsin’s attorney general refused to investigate that blatant violation of state law, the sheriff referred charges to the Racine County district attorney.
Rather than address the crisis of confidence facing our country’s electoral system, as demonstrated by the situations in Racine and Georgia, as well as the recent case filed in Michigan, corporate media and self-interested politicians stay silent—or instead sell the lie that the real problem Americans face is voter suppression.
We saw this last week when, hours after the media called the Virginia governor’s race for Republican Glenn Youngkin, the left began pushing the “voter suppression” canard. They also immediately re-upped calls for passing H.R. 1, the so-called “For the People’s Act,” which would gut many popular and necessary state election integrity laws, such as voter identification laws.
There was no voter suppression in Virginia, however, or anywhere else for that matter. What there was, though, was a repeat of 2020’s blatant disregard for election law by state officials and with no consequence.
In Virginia, we saw that when Fairfax County election officials issued ballots for voters who failed to comply with the state’s legal requirement that they include the final four digits of their Social Security numbers on their applications for a mail-in or absentee ballot. While that violation of election law could not have been more clear, a state court refused to enjoin Fairfax County officials, finding that the nonprofit the Virginia Institute for Public Policy lacked “standing,” or the right to sue, over the violation.
With Youngkin’s victory capped by more than 70,000 votes, what election officials did in the state’s most populated county—and one that went 70-30 for Joe Biden and Democrat Sen. Mark Warner—appears moot. But it isn’t: Election integrity matters, no matter which party wins and no matter the spread of the victory.
To prove that, Virginia’s newly elected attorney general, Republican Jason Miyares, should launch an investigation into the violations of state election law by Fairfax County officials. If he won’t, don’t be surprised when we see a repeat in 2022 and beyond. Don’t be surprised, either, when the average citizen learns from the pros how to lie, cheat, and steal his way to polls, which won’t be hard with the messy voting rolls in Michigan and elsewhere.
Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.
The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.