Matthew DePerno, the Republican nominee for attorney general in Michigan who has made a name for himself by pushing lies about the 2020 election — and by becoming the target of an investigation into whether he illegally tampered with voting machines — is spending the final stretch of his campaign spouting new falsehoods about supposed election crimes.
In a recent meeting with the Detroit Free Press’ editorial board, DePerno claimed that voting machines in Antrim County, Michigan, had been “broken into” in 2020, the paper said Tuesday. He also said that his opponent in the November 2022 election, Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), had failed to look into the purported crime.
“Why don’t you write a story about Dec. 4, 2020, when I referred to Dana Nessel an actual crime of two tabulators that were actually used in the November 2020 election where the security tapes were removed, the machines were broken into,” DePerno said.
But none of that is true, the Free Press reported.
For one thing, the paper found, DePerno never submitted any kind of criminal complaint to law enforcement. More importantly, the candidate still hasn’t offered evidence, or even a detailed description, of the crime he said took place.
His allegations appear to stem from a 2020 civil lawsuit filed by his client Bill Bailey, which claimed that a vote-tallying issue on Election Day in Antrim County was evidence of possible widespread fraud in Michigan. (In fact, it was a simple, quickly resolved human error.) Unofficial early results showed then-President Donald Trump losing the rural, conservative county, but a prompt recount indicated that he had won, 61% to 37%.
As part of the legal challenge, DePerno claimed that some voting machines in Antrim Country were missing the security tape typically placed over them after elections, suggesting that they could have been compromised. But the group of inspectors DePerno was involved with hadn’t looked at the machines until weeks after the election, the Free Press reported — well after that security tape legally could have been removed.
Still, DePerno claimed that “there is evidence that someone who was not authorized removed the tape ... during the election.” He provided no such evidence, according to the Free Press.
He also told the outlet that he believed Nessel had known about allegations of tampering and done nothing to address them.
“You cannot deny that Dana Nessel was aware of the allegations,” DePerno said. “You can also not deny that Dana Nessel never took any steps to investigate these claims. Not one single witness was contacted to give a statement by [Michigan State Police].”
Both Nessel’s office and the Antrim County clerk reiterated this week that they believe the claims are baseless.
The lawsuit hasn’t gone anywhere. An appeals court panel found in April that the “plaintiff merely raised a series of questions about the election without making any specific factual allegations as required.”
In a statement to HuffPost, DePerno’s campaign declined to comment further on the allegations or lawsuit. “We are done rehashing the Antrim County Case,” a spokesperson wrote.
‘They Are Domestic Terrorists’
DePerno’s claim about voting-machine tampering actually echoes pieces of an investigation into his own alleged actions: Nessel’s office has said that DePerno was one of the “prime instigators” of what it described as a potential “conspiracy to unlawfully obtain access to voting machines used in the 2020 General Election.”
At the office’s request, a special prosecutor is currently investigating DePerno and right-wing operatives who the office says tried to access and breach the machines as part of their attempt to push voter fraud myths.
DePerno and others, including far-right Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, allegedly managed to get their hands on some machines during this effort. Leaf also sent a sheriff’s deputy and a private investigator from town to town, pressing clerks for information.
According to Nessel’s office, the group then took the machines to “hotels and/or AIRBNB’s in Oakland County” so that they could break into them and perform “tests” on the equipment.
It’s a felony in Michigan to “obtain undue possession” of voting equipment.
DePerno has previously called the state investigation a “witch hunt,” and he promises on his campaign website to “prosecute the people who corrupted the 2020 election and allowed fraud to permeate the entire election system.”
DePerno’s efforts have been a wellspring for widespread lies about the 2020 election.
Former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, a key financial backer in the effort to sow doubt about the 2020 results, sent a team to look into the machines in Antrim County, and it wrote a report claiming that Dominion-brand voting machines in the area were “intentionally and purposefully designed with inherent errors to create systemic fraud and influence election results.”
This report has been repeatedly debunked, but it was still cited in a draft executive order in 2020 asserting that Trump, who was still president at the time, had the authority to seize voting machines nationwide.
Byrne then called out Nessel, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and Jonathan Brater, the director of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections: “They are domestic terrorists. I’m saying it. Sue me.”