(FOX 2) - The likely Republican candidate for state Attorney General denied having access to election tabulators in the aftermath of the 2020 election, disputing the results of an investigation by the Michigan State Police and the AG's office.
Matt DePerno was among nine people named in an investigation that alleged he planned to gain access to machines used during the previous election in order to perform "tests" on the equipment. The investigation says DePerno was present in a hotel room during the testing.
"I have never had possession of any tabulators. I have never talked to any precinct clerks about gaining possession to any tabulators," he said on Let It Rip Thursday night. He followed up the denial by saying if he did have possession of tabulators, it would not have been against the law.
Instead, he argued that Michigan allows its clerks "autonomy" and the law "only prohibits use or possession of a tabulator if No. 1, it is unauthorized, No. 2, it's after or during an election, and No. 3, it's prior to certification of the vote."
"That never happened."
DePerno, the presumptive GOP nominee for Michigan's top prosecutor seat, instead claimed state Attorney General Dana Nessel was leveraging her office's position to investigate her opponent. Barb Byrum, the Ingham County election clerk who appeared on Let It Rip pushed back on that claim and said Nessel used the proper channels after it became apparent her opponent was now at the center of a police investigation.
"The results came up against Matt, so she immediately referred it to another prosecutor," she said. "What Matt is fundraising off of is he wants to throw her in jail."
A summary of the investigation said a group of people gained unauthorized access to equipment from three township clerks offices and one county clerk office. The report said unauthorized possession of election equipment is a five-year felony. Conspiring with another person to commit the offense is also a five-year felony.
In the attorney general's petition for a special prosecutor, it said there was "not a conflict of interest" when the investigation began. But as new details came to light, the office said it would assign a another prosecutor to make a charging decision.
DePerno's statement contradicts a media report on Tuesday that quoted him during a podcast interview when he said "we got access to a tabulator, and we were able to simulate elections." The interview, which was done on the podcast Information Operation, was first reported by the Detroit News.
The past statement was made in relation to DePerno's lawsuit that alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election in Antrim County after votes appeared to switch between candidates. The claim has since been debunked and was instead attributed to user error. DePerno has campaigned on unproven claims of election fraud since the 2020 election, using it as launchpad for the AG's race in the 2022 Midterms.
Also named in the investigation was a west Michigan sheriff and a current state lawmaker from Lake City.
Allegations of misconduct by a current candidate for state office is the latest development in what's been a chaotic election season in Michigan.