On Wednesday, the Michigan Republican Party issued a sensational statement claiming to provide proof of dangerously insecure ballot drop boxes. The release linked to a YouTube video purportedly filmed in Lansing showing somebody easily opening the back of an unlocked drop box, revealing one small envelope inside. Another video showed somebody struggling to close a newly-installed drop box.
“This is evidence that our election system has potentially been compromised,” claimed Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Laura Cox, according to the Lansing State Journal. Cox called on Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, to “launch a full investigation.” Cox added that she stood “with President Trump in his fight for [a] free, fair election” and the state party’s statement seemed to fit nicely with false claims from Trump and other Republicans that mail voting and drop boxes somehow enable fraud.
While Benson did call for an investigation in response to the statement, it is not the one the state GOP called for. Instead, she asked Michigan’s top law enforcement official to examine whether the party’s release was itself against the law.
“By sharing blatantly false statements in the press release, they are irresponsibly spreading misinformation likely intended to suppress voting among Michigan citizens,” Benson’s communications director, Jake Rollow, said in a Wednesday statement. “We have referred this matter to the Attorney General for investigation as election misinformation.”
Rollow noted even the GOP’s statement had admitted that one of the videos had been shot two weeks ago, shortly after the boxes were installed but before any ballots were mailed to voters. Rollow also pointed out that the envelope the video shows inside the box was clearly not a ballot.
A message left with the Michigan Republican Party was not immediately returned. Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office confirmed they were reviewing the referral, but otherwise declined to comment.
Chris Swope, the Lansing City Clerk and the official responsible for the drop box, told the Lansing State Journal that the video with the envelope was taken after the boxes were installed but before election workers visited each one to secure them. He agreed the envelope depicted was clearly not a ballot, and that the Republicans were trying to create a false narrative that could shroud votes deposited in drop boxes in some kind of doubt.
“I think it’s disingenuous to be spreading this and saying our election is not secure,” Swope told the paper.