Muskegon Voter Registration Probe: Michigan Election Integrity Group Wants to Know What Happened

By Steven Kovac

Pressure is mounting for action concerning a 2020 incident in which Brianna Hawkins, an employee of GBI Strategies, a campaign services vendor, allegedly attempted to submit 12,500 new voter registration applications to the city clerk of Muskegon, Michigan, in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. Both Ms. Hawkins and GBI Strategies are named in an otherwise heavily redacted police report.

Dozens of the applications were quickly found to contain erroneous names, addresses, and signatures that appeared to be signed by the same person. The western Michigan community has a population of 38,000.

The clerk called the local police, and an investigation was launched that involved the Michigan State Police, the Criminal Investigation Division of the state Attorney General’s office, investigators from the Secretary of State’s office, inspectors of the United States Postal Service, and an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE).

Within days, investigators found financial records linking GBI Strategies to the campaigns of Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate Gary Peters, according to the Michigan State Police (MPS) incident report.

It was also discovered that the operations of GBI Strategies extended to half a dozen of Michigan’s urban centers and multiple states. In the 2018 midterms, the company was paid $188,000 by the National Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $1.5 million by Alabama Democrat Doug Jones’s campaign for U.S. Senate.

GBI Strategies specializes in voter registration and helping new voters to obtain absentee ballots. It also organizes get-out-the-vote efforts, primarily for Democrat candidates and PACs.

According to the MSP incident report, Ms. Hawkins, from Detroit, told investigators that her job was to go to Muskegon to ensure that voter registration applications were filled out properly and completely by prospective voters. She told authorities she oversaw the work of canvassers who went door-to-door distributing applications and helping people to complete them. The applications were then given to GBI Strategies for processing and eventual filing either by mail or in-person delivery.

In the course of their inquiries, the investigative task force surveilled offices in Michigan, obtained several search warrants, conducted cellphone tracking, made traffic stops, conducted non-custodial interviews, confiscated records and electronics, analyzed cellphone communications, did field canvassing, and examined but did not seize a cache of firearms discovered in one of the offices.

A review by an agent from the ATFE determined that the guns were held legally, according to the MSP incident report. It remains unclear why the weapons were stored in the office.

The MSP investigation report states that Muskegon police and analysts from the secretary of state’s office found a quantity of voter registration applications that they deemed “clearly fraudulent,” and others they called “highly suspicious,” because they contained erroneous information.

From then on, “nothing” happened, according to David Howell, an election integrity activist with the watchdog group Michigan Fair Elections (MFE). “There were no grand juries empaneled, no subpoenas, no arrests, no indictments or trials.”

“I was shocked that the investigation was cut short by state and local officials. Government spokesmen came out a few days before the election and basically said that nothing was found that would impact the results and that the system worked. They blamed the low-level GBI Strategies canvassers for all the problems with the registration applications.”

The 2020 presidential election came and went, with now-President Joe Biden narrowly defeating incumbent President Donald Trump in Michigan by 154,000 votes or 2.8 percent. By May of 2021, the Muskegon investigation was absorbed by the FBI as part of a broader multi-state probe.

“That’s the last we heard of it,” said Mr. Howell.

On Feb. 17, 2024, The Epoch Times asked Danny Wimmer, the spokesman for the Michigan attorney general’s office, why the attorney general did not charge anyone and why the state and local component of the investigation was deactivated, and the case handed to the FBI. Mr. Wimmer has yet to reply.

Almost three years after the FBI took over the Muskegon case, the bureau’s national press office told The Epoch Times that the “FBI’s standard practice is to neither confirm nor deny the existence of investigations.”

Mr. Howell, a 27-year U.S. military veteran, who served as a physician’s assistant in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the war in Afghanistan, told The Epoch Times, “In my opinion, so many felonies could have come out of the Muskegon investigation. People deserve answers.”

Some of the people most interested in the findings of the Muskegon investigation are the 15 Michigan Republican 2020 presidential electors who are currently being prosecuted by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, for knowingly and willfully advancing the “false claim” that there was large-scale voter fraud in the state and other alleged misrepresentations.

‘Totally Opaque’

MFE’s chairperson Patrice Johnson told The Epoch Times: “Unlike most evidence in criminal fraud cases, much evidence needed to prove election fraud can be legally erased or destroyed by election officials after 22 months unless notified by law enforcement to preserve them. We have been unable to confirm if any such notice has ever been issued in the Muskegon case. There is also a federal five-year statute of limitations for voter fraud.”

Ms. Johnson said there have been “no status updates, and we are left feeling doubtful that anyone will be held accountable.”

She questioned why the FBI was allegedly withholding status reports and being “totally opaque” on the matter.

“If the FBI is trying to run the clock out, the Muskegon/GBI Strategies voter fraud investigation will die because most of the important evidence will have been destroyed,” she said.

Mr. Howell said that citizen groups in Michigan are conducting extensive legwork, exposing voter registration wrongdoing, and looking for ways to prevent a repeat of 2020.

He, like other concerned citizens throughout the Great Lakes state, has signed up to be a local election worker and has become active in his county’s Republican Party.

According to an Aug. 2022 entry in the status journal kept by the Michigan State Police, evidence gathered in the Muskegon case was still being retained for the FBI. The last entry in the journal, posted on Sept. 20, 2022, listed the investigation as open.

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