Senate bills that would strip the ability investigative and subpoena powers from county canvassers passed by a partisan 6-2 vote in the House of Representatives Elections Committee on Tuesday morning.

All six Democrats on the Committee voted for the bill to proceed, despite a last-minute attempt by Rep. Jay DeBoyer, R-Clay Township, to table the bill. Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Allegan County, voted with DeBoyer. Smit served as a Martin Township clerk for seven years.

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As The Midwesterner reported last week, quoting Senate Legislative Analyst Abby Schneider, SB 603 and 604 “would hinder the ability of candidates aggrieved by fraud to request recounts, reducing trust in the election process. The recount process is designed to ensure the accuracy and fairness of elections. This includes granting bipartisan boards of county canvassers the ability to investigate claims of fraud while conducting recounts. By eliminating this ability, and references to fraud altogether, the bills would prevent bad actors from being held accountable and erode confidence in the State’s election process.”

The bills were sponsored by Sens. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield.

In her testimony on Tuesday, Chang called the changes “a collaborative process” that included the Secretary of State, the Association of County Clerks, and municipal clerks.

“The Dems are successfully stacking the deck by stripping provisions of law that would provide for the detection of potential fraud committed during the process of administering an election,” DeBoyer told The Midwesterner. ‘This is bad, we all know it’s bad yet the ignorance and pure disregard for election security from the Democrats reigns supreme.”

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In a somewhat heated exchange with Chang on Tuesday, DeBoyer said, “What I believe to be the largest issue is the removal of the ability of a board of canvassers to do an investigation into the process.”

DeBoyer served as a county clerk for 12 years. He referenced last week’s Election Committee meeting in which he was repeated told by Moss and Chang that the boards of canvassers do not have the authority to investigate elections. Those assertions were erroneous, according to DeBoyer. A representative from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office confirmed DeBoyer’s assertions were accurate.

“No less than nine times by the way last week did yourself or senator Moss say that boards of canvassers do not have the authority to investigate,” DeBoyer told Chang. “That was said nine times. That is 100% wrong as you’re now aware….”

Chang had said the canvassers could refer any suspicions of wrongdoing to a county prosecutor.

“[S]o the question is why do we want to remove that right because there’s a confusion you’re talking about a criminal prosecution when you say ‘refer to the prosecutor,’ DeBoyer said. “The provision in the current law is not talking about a criminal investigation. It’s talking about a process investigation.”

He noted that the board of canvassers and the county clerk are currently empowered to conduct a process investigation to determine if the actions and behaviors of the local clerk of the chair of the precinct or a poll worker of a receiving board were done within the statute.

“That is what the investigation is talking about,” DeBoyer said. “That is what the ability for the subpoena is, but we’re gutting that from the bill. We’re essentially taking a position which had been stated by you guys and testimony that this is administerial which again is blatantly false and we’re now trying to turn it into an administerial act. Why do we want to take that authority away from the bodies that have the most knowledge about the process? Why do we want to do that?” he asked.